PCG: Oil spill in Oriental Mindoro expands; tanker fully sinks

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 1) — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Wednesday reported that the oil spill in waters off Oriental Mindoro has expanded to six kilometers long and four kilometers wide.

The slick, which the PCG described as black and thick with a strong odor, was located near Balingawan Point in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.

It said oil dispersants have been sprayed in the area after the Marine Environment Protection Unit observed black and thick oil in the collected water samples.

The PCG also confirmed that MT Princess Empress, the tanker that capsized on Tuesday due to engine trouble, has completely sunk.

MT Princess Empress was transporting 800,000 liters of industrial oil from Bataan to Iloilo when it drifted toward Balingawan Point due to rough sea conditions. 

The coast guard said it will form a crisis management committee as the oil spill assessment and response operation continues. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) previously said it was also monitoring the situation.

Aside from BRP Melchora Aquino, the PCG said it will also deploy BRP Habagat to serve as a marine pollution platform.

Calls for action

A marine life conservation coalition called on the government to urgently act on the oil spill that would “negatively impact food security specifically in the fisheries sector.”

Protect VIP, a group that seeks to conserve the Verde Island Passage (VIP), said the oil slick may not only hinder the growth of marine life in the area but also affect the livelihoods of local fishermen.

“We are calling on the government to expedite clean-up operations to minimize the damage and allow the people who depend on the riches of the sea to resume their normal activities,” it said.

The group claimed that at least 2 million Filipinos, including fisherfolk and those in the tourism industry, rely on the biodiversity and resources of VIP, which has been called “the center of the center” of shore fish biodiversity.

In a statement, Greenpeace Philippines also urged the government to end its dependence on fossil fuel as part of its commitment to environmental protection and hold to account oil, coal, and gas corporations.

“The fossil fuel industry must pay for their businesses’ direct impacts on our environment, as well as the massive loss and damage resulting from the impacts of the climate crisis,” said Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Jefferson Chua.

“Fossil fuel corporations are morally obligated to make the shift to renewable energy sources — and, based on their record profits last year, have more than enough capacity to do so. We demand that these companies acknowledge the danger they are putting us in, pay climate reparations, and stop further expansion of their toxic operations,” he added.