PCG: Tanker that caused Mindoro oil spill has permit to operate

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 15) — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has denied that it has allowed the tanker that caused the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro to operate despite a lack of permit as it presented a document to rebut the claim.

On Tuesday, the PCG posted on its social media page a copy of the Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) issued by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) to MT Princess Empress in November 2022.

The agency showed the CPC after senators cited during a hearing a Marina report which stated that the oil tanker “has no authority to operate in the form of an amendment to its Certificate of Public Convenience."

During the inquiry, MT Princess Empress owner RDC Reield Marine Services said it bought the vessel last year and applied for a CPC amendment to include the new tanker in the list of ships it is allowed to use.

RDC said it filed the application for the amendment in November and “completed” the documentary requirements on Dec. 2, 2022, after which it started operating the vessel.

The company also insisted in a statement later that the tanker has a valid CPC.

However, Marina Administrator Hernani Fabia told lawmakers that the amended CPC is still pending due to lacking documents. He said this means the ship should not have been allowed to sail yet.

At the time MT Princess Empress sank, it was already on its ninth voyage.

“‘Yung RDC, may pending application, which we're going to hear pa sana,” Fabia said. “So, ihi-hear pa natin ‘yan, so di sila na-issuehan kaagad.”

[Translation: The RDC has a pending application, which we were supposed to hear, so the company wasn’t issued a CPC immediately.]

This placed the PCG in hot water, as senators said the agency should have checked necessary permits before authorizing the tanker to sail.

During the hearing, coast guard officials made no mention of the November 2022 CPC apparently granted by Marina. The PCG did maintain that its personnel inspected the ship, although it also acknowledged there could have been lapses which are now being investigated.

MT Princess Empress was transporting 800,000 liters of industrial oil when it capsized and sank near Naujan town on Feb. 28.

Authorities are rushing to contain and clean up the oil spill, as they warn of its impact on the environment and on the health of residents, not only in Oriental Mindoro but also in nearby areas.

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the tally of affected population has risen to over 145,000 residents in 127 barangays as of Wednesday.

Meanwhile, at least 122 people were confirmed to have fallen ill due to the oil spill, the Department of Health said on Tuesday.