Oil spill spreads to more areas in Oriental Mindoro

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 2) — The spill from an oil tanker near Naujan, Oriental Mindoro is spreading to more areas, Environment Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga confirmed Thursday.

As of 12 p.m., Loyzaga said reports showed the oil spill had already reached the municipal shores of Pola, Pinamalayan, Gloria, and Bongabong.

"The spill appears to be flowing southwards towards the southern part of Oriental Mindoro," Loyzaga said in a video message to the media.

According to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the oil spill has reached the waters covered by Barangay Aplaya in Bongabong town, which is around 35 nautical miles south of Naujan. The oil spill from an oil tanker near Naujan, Oriental Mindoro is spreading to other areas, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported Thursday.

Oil spill stranding was also observed along the coast of Barangay Buhay na Tubig in Pola town.

A shoreline assessment conducted by the PCG in Pinamalayan said "patches of emulsified oil" have been spotted approximately one hectare near the waters around Maestro de Campo Island in Romblon. The island, also called Sibale, is located approximately 20 kilometers off the coast of Oriental Mindoro.

The coast guard is rushing to contain the oil spill after the MT Princess Empress, a tanker transporting 800,000 liters of industrial oil, capsized and eventually sank.

It confirmed industrial fuel oil was mixed with the spillage, described as black and thick with a strong odor.

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

Authorities have been collecting water samples in 12 sites and spraying dispersants at the oil spill.

"Given the extent, however, of the current shoreline reach, the DENR personnel from Mimaropa region are now focusing on coastal clean-up. This is going on while the Philippine Coast Guard and BFAR (Bureau of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) handle the offshore and marine response actions," Loyzaga said.

The Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the oil spill may impact 21 locally managed marine protected areas in the 40-kilometer radius from five nautical miles east of Balingawan Port.

"It has mapped potential risk areas including sea grass beds, mangroves, and dispersion pathways for spawned fish larvae," said the DENR. Loyzaga added the agency mobilized dive teams to do rapid assessments of coastal and marine habitats.

The DENR chief said she would be visiting the site on Friday to determine the extent of the spillage and "how we can actually help the towns of Oriental Mindoro better."

She added marine scientists have been contacted for help, while three private sector partners have confirmed their readiness to assist in clean-up efforts and oil spill containment.

The Environment department has formed Task Force Naujan Oil Spill, and is working with the PCG and the Philippine Air Force to further assess the situation. Loyzaga said drones are set to be launched.

"The DENR…is committed to support the local government and all our communities in restoring and hopefully regenerating the affected coastal and marine ecosystems," said Loyzaga, noting that efforts may take time.