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

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines. March 9) — The local government of Pola, Oriental Mindoro on Thursday said it will discuss possibly filing cases against the owner of MT Princess Empress, the tanker that caused a massive oil spill in the province affecting the livelihood of fishermen and tourist spots there.

“Pag-uusapan po ng task force,” Pola, Oriental Mindoro Mayor Jennifer Cruz said. “Hihingi rin po tayo ng advice sa ating gobernador at congressman.”

[Translation: The task force will discuss this. We will also seek advice from our governor and congressman.]

The Philippine Coast Guard along with some locals are currently taking efforts to clean up the oil spill that has affected many towns in Oriental Mindoro. Pola was the first to declare a state of calamity following the incident.

According to Gerry Arances, executive director of Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, the oil slick is a threat to the Verde Island Passage where a number of marine protected areas are located. Around two million fishermen in the province also rely on this area, he added.

He noted the passage produces around ₱12 billion annually from fish catch alone, while Oriental Mindoro generated around ₱3.5 billion in 2019 in terms of tourism that is dependent on its local marine biodiversity.

The mayor said up to 2,000 locals will be hired with the help of the Department of Labor and Employment to help in the clean-up operations.

She also said she hopes experts will be deployed to their area to guide them throughout the process.

Cruz also said the sister-in-law of the owner of MT Princess Empress visited them on Wednesday to offer relief goods.

However, she said she rejected the goods because they were delivered days after the local government received help from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Local officials also have to assess what they currently need, Cruz added.

So far, the mayor said what they urgently need are gears to protect the people who are being deployed to clean up the oil spill.