AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People demands accountability from the companies involved in the oil spill off the coast of Oriental Mindoro, and seeks transparency from the national government on the current status of oil spill removal and sunken vessel retrieval operations.
It’s been a month since the MT Empress Princes sank off the coast of Pola in northern Oriental Mindoro . At present, the Philippine Coast Guard has already collected about 9,463 liters of oily water mixture and 115 sacks of oil-contaminated materials . This is just a small portion of the 800,000 liters of industrial fuel carried by the sunken ship. The sunken oil tanker has already been located but not yet retrieved, thus it continues to leak oil into our seas. “This oil spill incident is one of the worst oil spills in the country considering the extent of oil leakage,” said Jerwin Baure, public information officer of AGHAM. “We could expect long-term effects on the environment, livelihood, and health of affected residents. It is particularly alarming considering that this happened near the Verde Island Passage, the center of the center of marine biodiversity in the world!”
Currently, affected residents have started processing their claims to cash aids to be handed by the insurers of RDC Reield Marine Services (RDC). The lawyer of the insurers, however, advised the residents that they could claim these cash aids without having to sue RDC . “The people of Mindoro, Batangas, Palawan and Antique should still pursue suing the companies involved in the oil spill,” said Baure. “Cash aid is temporary but the ecological damage brought by the oil spill is long-term. The polluters are only evading accountability! RDC and the company that contracted it to transport oil – SL Harbor Bulk Terminal Corporation, which is a subsidiary of San Miguel Shipping and Lighterage Corporation  – should pay the affected residents, shoulder the expenses in the rehabilitation of affected marine ecosystems, and should be held accountable to our courts. Our existing maritime laws should be revisited and amended so that marine catastrophes such as this could be avoided.”
The oil spill cleanup could take months to conduct unless the sunken oil tanker is retrieved. “The government must be transparent on how they are going to hold the involved companies accountable to this catastrophe. An oil spill as big as this is not only a national concern but also an international one considering that it happened in a biodiversity hotspot. The government must act to prevent future oil spills,” ended Baure. ###