MT Princess Empress owner apologizes, assures efforts ongoing to assist in cleanup efforts

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 13) — The owner of MT Princess Empress, the tanker that caused a massive oil spill in Oriental Mindoro, has apologized for the incident and has assured all those affected that it is taking steps to address the problem and minimize its impact especially on the environment.

“We are truly sorry that this incident has affected the livelihoods of those living in the impacted areas and the spill's effect on the environment,” RDC Reield Marine Services said in a statement on Sunday.

The company said it is “committed to doing everything possible to minimise the ongoing impact on the environment and people's lives and clean up the spill.”

On Feb. 28, MT Princess Empress, which was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial oil, capsized and sank.

According to local officials in Oriental Mindoro, the oil slick has reached their shores and has been causing sickness among residents.

The company said it is currently addressing the spill in three phases.

“Under Phase One, we are currently undertaking emergency measures to limit oil reaching the shore, mobilise appropriate assets to the site, and integrate multiple response elements into a single cohesive strategy to ensure the most effective operation can be mounted,” it explained.

“Onsite, tugs with spill response equipment onboard continue working with the Philippine Coast Guard on at-sea containment, recovery and storage of the recovered oil,” it added.

The company said it also tapped experts from the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF) to provide technical advice to all concerned parties, like the Philippine Coast Guard, the Environment department, and local officials.

According to its website, ITOPF provides a “wide range of technical services to back up our core role of responding to ship-sourced spills.”

ITOPF said it has responded to over 800 incidents involving oil or chemical spills worldwide.

“In addition, we have retained the specialist French oil spill response company, Le Floch Depollution (LFD), who are mobilising local assets and personnel, deploying necessary assets within the Philippines and importing needed equipment from overseas,” RDC added.

For phase two, RDC said the focus will be on the development of a detailed response plan by ITOPF and clean-up contractors. The company said the plan is expected to identify the at-sea and shoreline response for the affected areas. It added that the plan has to be approved by Philippine authorities.

In phase three, the company will implement the cleanup plan in coordination with public officials and other stakeholders.

“ITOPF will lead a series of joint surveys of affected sites with key stakeholders to formulate and implement effective clean-up plans with shared agreement on when to end operations,” RDC said.

While the company says it will prioritize the coastal cleanup, it assured those affected by the oil spill that it is working with its insurers, saying that affected parties will soon be advised on how to submit their claims for processing.