Various national government agencies currently addressing the disaster brought by the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro province were asked on Tuesday by Governor Humerlito Dolor to sit down all together at once with the local government to formulate a joint effort.
Dolor made the call during an inquiry launched by the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change as a response to the privilege speech delivered by Senator Francis Tolentino on March 6 seeking an in-depth assessment that would look into the vast damages brought about by the oil spill.
Dolor said the Senate can do its investigation but they have their own concerns that need to be addressed as soon as possible.
“Hindi kami naghahanap ng fault dito. Bahala kayo diyan maghanap pero apat ang concern namin. Una, matagpuan ang barko (We are not finding faults here. We will leave you on finding that but we have four concerns. First, find the ship),” Dolor told the committee, thanking Cabinet secretaries for the swift response on his requests.
“Salamat sa NAMRIA [National Mapping and Resource Information Authority]. Salamat kay [DENR] Secretary [Toni Yulo] Loyzaga. Tawag ni [DSWD] Secretary [Rex] Gatchalian ang pumukaw sa inyong damdamin para ipadala agad dahil ang sabi niyo hindi malinaw ang usapan ng Coast Guard sa inyo (Thank you to NAMRIA, to Secretary Loyzaga. Secretary Gatchalian’s call touched your hearts to immediately send because you said your talk to Coast Guard was not clear). Six hours after that, dumating ang vessel (The vessel arrived),” he added.
Another concern brought up by Dolor was the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that was needed to find and recover the sunken vessel and to prevent the oil spill reaching the shores of Oriental Mindoro.
He also cited Departments of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Labor and Employment (DOLE), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and the PCG for helping the local government in the clean-up drive.
But, Dolor emphasized that someone from the national government should take charge in managing the overall response to the oil spill.
“Isang meeting ng lahat ng Cabinet secretaries sa Mindoro gawin para doon pa lang malinaw. Isang bagsak natin (Just one meeting of all Cabinet secretaries in Mindoro to make it clearer). We know that the government is doing its best. Ang kailangan lang natin dito ngayon ay mas mabilis na aksyon (What we need now is a quicker action),” the governor said.
Dolor was also asking the RDC Reield Marine Services, the company that owns the MT Princess Empress, to help the people of Oriental Mindoro who have lost their livelihood, recover.
“On the response cleanup there, they are helping us together with Harbor Star and Malayan Towage. But, as far as direct [help] to our kababayan, yun po ang wala (help for our people, that is what’s missing) and that’s what we’re asking. Sana kasabay ng gobyerno kasi hindi po kaya ng [lokal na] gobyerno i-sustain. Masyado pong mabigat ito (Hopefully together with the national government because the local government can’t sustain this. This is too much),” he said.
The Oriental Mindoro chief executive confirmed that the DSWD was the first to respond sending more than 40,000 food packs and committed to implement the cash- for-work for the affected residents.
MT Princess Empress, which carried 20 crew and 800,000 liters of industrial fuel, ran aground on Feb. 28 and eventually sunk the following day, that affected the provinces of Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, and Antique.
According to Office of the Civil Defense Deputy Administrator Assistant Secretary Rafaelito Alejandro IV, some 23,005 families or 108,162 persons were affected in 118 barangays both in Oriental Mindoro and Palawan.
Alejandro said 4,125 liters of oily water mixture were also collected during offshore operations and 12,685 liters of waste during shoreline clean-up activities.
DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga designated the agency’s Environmental Management Bureau to identify possible disposal sites and to provide list of registered Hazardous Wastes Storage and Treatment facilities and facilitate the issuance of permits to import response materials.
NAMRIA was tasked to provide trainings on geographic information and global positioning systems as well as nautical charts, geo-spatial data, and hydrographic survey.
Meanwhile, the Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines will conduct research on oil spill modeling, environmental sensitivity index mappings, and bioremediation. It will also provide a team of experts.
When asked by Senate Pro Tempore Loren Legarda for a timeline on containing the oil spill, DENR Undersecretary Marolou Erni recalled the Guimaras oil spill that happened in 2006 wherein the oil recovery operation was completed in 21 days and fishing was already allowed after five months.
The DENR committed to contain the oil spill in 30 days.
Legarda requested, in a formal motion, all the concerned agencies to submit to the committee the costing of all the help given to the oil spill affected areas and their action plans in the next 30 days.
“At least, meron kayong commitment na nakasulat na naisumite sa komiteng ito para may kinalabasan. Hindi lang imbestigasyon, kwentuhan, tapos hinaing (At least, you have a commitment written and submitted to this committee to have a result. Not just for the sake of an investigation, conversation, and concern),” the lawmaker said.
“Hindi tayo pwedeng life as usual. Hindi po. Emergency po ito, pang araw-araw na pangingisda ng ating mga fisherfolk ang apektado rito (We cannot do this like life as usual. No. This is an emergency situation, the livelihood of our fisherfolk is being affected here),” she added. (PNA)
Photo credit: Facebook/coastguardph