Tablas Strait oil spill reaches Antique
ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — The oil spill from the tanker MT Empress Princess that sunk off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, on Feb. 28 has already reached the island town of Caluya, between Mindoro and Panay, only about 18 nautical miles west of Boracay Island in Aklan.
According to Com. Jansen Benjamin, public information officer of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Western Visayas District, the PCG was still consolidating actual figures.
But he said the PCG station in Semirara, one of the five islands of Caluya, reported that the oil spill has so far affected at least a five-kilometer stretch of coastline covering three villages in the island.
The situation in Caluya town, which is part of Antique province in Panay, was the same as that in several coastal towns of Oriental Mindoro, where officials have already declared states of calamity.
The location of the sunken Empress Princess was not yet known at press time, but it is believed to be 91 NM (about 170 kilometers) away, in the Tablas Strait.
The tanker was bound for Iloilo from Bataan, carrying 800,000 liters (about 5,000 barrels) of industrial oil, when it sank past 8 a.m. of Feb. 28.
Oil spill cleanup
Benjamin said shoreline cleanup started immediately and at least three Coast Guard vessels were dispatched to the area along with oil spill boom defense, oil skimmer and oil absorbent materials, plus 15 responders.
The coast guard has also coordinated with private companies, like Semirara Mining and Power Corp., which volunteered assistance.
Benjamin said the PCG had sufficient experience in oil spill cleanups and the Western Visayas unit was the most experienced because of the number of oil spills that have occurred in the region.
The biggest was in 2006 when 2.1 million liters of bunker fuel spilled in the waters off Guimaras Island following the sinking of MT Solar 1.
The Marine Science Institute of the University of the Philippines released on Friday a bulletin about the spill and reported the oil slick to be around 25 km long and between 300 and 500 meters wide.
The institute also warned other coastal towns of Oriental Mindoro as well as Cuyo Island in Palawan to prepare for the slick reaching their shores.
In Mindoro’s capital of Calapan City, around 10,000 affected families began receiving government relief, consisting of food packs and cash-for-work grants, Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian said on Saturday.
Gatchalian arrived in the city at the behest of Oriental Mindoro Gov. Humerlito Dolor who appealed for families in the towns of Naujan, Pola, Bongabong, Pinamalayan and Bulalacao.
Aside from the calamity relief, President Marcos said “special attention will be given to the affected fisherfolk who will be losing their source of livelihood because of the oil spill.”
The President said he was monitoring the situation and had already tasked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to work with the International Maritime Organization and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to support officials. —WITH A REPORT FROM NESTOR CORRALES
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