Pola mayor: Owner of tanker that caused oil spill should provide us complete recovery plan

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 16) — The owner of MT Princess Empress, the tanker that sank and caused a massive oil spill in the province, should provide a complete plan to help affected communities recover from the incident that will be felt for at least three years, the mayor of Pola town in Oriental Mindoro said Thursday.

Ang gusto ko po complete na program for Pola,” Mayor Jennifer Cruz told CNN Philippines' The Source. “Hindi naman pwedeng bigas lang ‘yung ibibigay ninyo then after that wala na. Ilatag ‘yung kumpleto na progama for Pola kasi nasira ang kalikasan, nasira po yung ating hanapbuhay, maraming nagkasakit.”

[Translation: What I want is a complete program for Pola. They can't just give out rice packs then after that that's it. Lay down the complete plan for Pola because the environment was destroyed, livelihood was destroyed, and many are getting sick.]

Pola was one of the towns that declared a state of calamity following the oil spill.

Cruz said since the oil spill started, they have yet to receive help from RDC Reield Marine Services, the owner of the tanker. Problems also came one after another, she added.

READ: Pola, Oriental Mindoro may take legal action vs. owner of MT Princess Empress

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

Aside from cleanup efforts and assisting those getting sick, the local chief executive said another concern for them is the rising cost of pork and vegetables since there are no alternatives as fishermen cannot sail.

Local tourism should also be given attention as resort owners record canceled bookings, Cruz said.

According to the Department of Tourism, at least 61 tourist sites have already been affected, and the number could still rise.

Aside from fisherfolk, Sen. Nancy Binay suggested including displaced tourism workers to be employed in the Labor Department's Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Worker (TUPAD). TUPAD workers are tasked to help in cleanup efforts.

Citing experts who have been helping them, Cruz said cleaning up the oil may take up to four months. However, its effect may be felt for up to three years, she noted.

According to the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) information officer Diego Agustin Mariano, more than 31,600 families, or 145,000 residents, were so far affected by the oil slick, which has reached northern Palawan. Around 175 people have also fallen ill, he added.

Cruz said they are currently focusing on 11 barangays still affected by the mess, while one is under observation.

For OCD’s part, Mariano said they already located the area where MT Princess Empress sank. Authorities will now focus on that area to contain the spill, he noted.

He said collected so far are over 30,000 liters of oil waste — a combination of oily water, oil itself, and other debris.

The Presidential Communications Office said the national government and the private sector have provided more than ₱40 million worth of assistance to 74 areas in Mimaropa and Western Visayas affected by the oil spill.