The owners of the MT Princess Empress tanker that sank last February 28 off Naujan, Mindoro Oriental with 800,000 liters of industrial oil are obligated to provide financial and livelihood assistance to the affected villagers.
Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva made this observation on Friday, saying the Mindoreños were still awaiting help from the RDC Reield Marine Services, owner of the ill-starred tanker.
Villanueva cited the “just compensation” or payment for damages that should be given by the ship owners to the families adversely affected by the oil spill.
He also called on the local government of Mindoro to ensure that the victims would not be intimidated to agree to a compromise settlement.
Villanueva urged the government officials of Mindoro to guarantee the protection of their constituents and see to it that pertinent laws are applied.
The Senate leader pointed out that the victims do not owe the ship owners debt of gratitude in light of any assistance given to them.
He insisted that helping the affected islanders was a responsibility of the ship owners that should be fulfilled.
The entire province of Oriental Mindoro will be placed under a state of calamity, Governor Humerlito Dolor said on Thursday.
“Last night, based on the latest report I got from the DOH (Department of Health) and the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), I asked our PDRRMO (Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office) to prepare their recommendation to declare a state of calamity in the whole province, not just for the area first affected by the oil spill,” Dolor said.
Meanwhile, as recent tests yielded minimal traces of oil and grease in the province’s spill-affected areas, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) recommended Thursday to keep the fishing bans in the affected municipalities.
The agency, in a statement, believes the initial analyses are not yet conclusive evidence as far as food safety is concerned since the samples were collected during the early days of March.
Large parts of Oriental Mindoro were affected by an oil spill caused by the sinking of motor tanker Princess Empress which was carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel oil.
Thousands of fishermen and their families are now part of the government’s cash-for-work program after fishing bans were imposed in the affected waters.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development said it has given at least P38.1 million in aid to affected families.
BFAR has been monitoring the situation in areas affected by the oil spill, with regular evaluation of the contaminant levels in water and fishery resources.
These determine if fish and other seafood in these areas are safe for public consumption and if fishing bans should be lifted by the local government units (LGUs) concerned.
It said that water samples collected and analyzed from the affected municipalities of Bansud, Bongabong, Bulalacao, Calapan, Gloria, Mansalay, Naujan, Pinamalayan, Pola, and Roxas, and in Caluya, Antique on March 9 to 12 showed that the levels of oil and grease were within the standards approved by the DENR.
Meanwhile, fish samples collected and analyzed from the same areas on March 4 to 5 showed low-level contaminants or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).
PAH, which is harmful to humans and other living organisms, may accumulate in the flesh of marine organisms over time.
The results were consistent with the findings of the DA-BFAR in its first batch of analyses — minimal amounts of oil and grease and PAH levels present in fish and seafood from the same areas.
BFAR said it continuously analyzes and monitors the areas to establish time-series results on the impact of the oil spill in relation to food safety. “Succeeding analyses should be considered to ensure seafood is safe for public consumption,” it added.
The bureau is fast-tracking laboratory analyses without compromising the accuracy of the data, which serve as the basis for its recommendations, it said. “Findings and recommendations will be shared with the public and concerned government offices as soon as data becomes available,” BFAR added.
BFAR has been assisting the provincial government with the provision of relief and livelihood aid since the disastrous event.
The bureau has allocated P4.4 million worth of livelihood assistance in the form of post-harvest technology packages, which will benefit 10 fisherfolk associations and cooperatives or 689 families.
It has also allocated P1.5 million for the provision of food assistance to 5,000 affected fisherfolk in MIMAROPA, and another P580,500 to help displaced fishermen in Western Visayas.
In addition, the bureau has deployed monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) vessels, as well as PPE sets and other materials for clean-up activities.
Additional interventions were also being prepositioned based on rehabilitation proposals from the oil spill-hit areas, it added.