Mindoro fishers bear brunt of oil spill
CITY OF CALAPAN, Oriental Mindoro Philippines — Neresa Macalalad, a community organizer in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, laments that from earnings of up to P2,000 for every fishing trip, families in her village of San Antonio now get “zero” after the oil spill from a sunken tanker started to spread in their shores.
“Kinakaya pa, pero hanggang kailan (We’re struggling to cope, but until when)?” said Macalalad, 55, a member of Samahan ng Maliliit na Mangingisda ng San Antonio.
She said that about 50 fishing boats under their group could not sail out to sea because of a ban and the town’s declaration of state of calamity.
“It has been one week since the oil spill. The affected area used to be our rich fishing grounds. Our small savings are running out. Most children here are schooling and we have to spend for transportation, ‘baon’ (pocket money) every day and other needs of our students,” she said. “What stresses us most is the uncertainty of what lies ahead.”
MT Princess Empress, which carried 800,000 liters of industrial oil, capsized in the waters off Naujan town in Oriental Mindoro on Feb. 28 and sank the following day after experiencing engine trouble.
Authorities issued advisories to stay off waters affected by the oil spill for safety, which includes a fishing ban.Of the 14 towns in the province, only three (Baco, San Teodoro and Puerto Galera towns) and Calapan City are not covered by the state of calamity resolution passed by provincial board on Monday.
The vessel’s sinking resulted in the spillage of emulsified black and thick industrial oil, which posed health hazards to residents and disrupted the livelihood of more than 15,000 fishermen, resorts and other establishments, the resolution stated.
The oil spill also caused “serious damage” to marine protected areas in the province, it added.
In Antique province, the municipality of Caluya has been declared under a state of the calamity after about 8 kilometers of its shoreline covering the villages Semirara, Tinogboc and Sibolo were affected by the spill.
Coastal cleanup is ongoing but has been hampered by strong winds and waves due to the northeast monsoon.
The fisherfolk group Pamalakaya urged the government to immediately provide economic subsidy and livelihood support to fishing families affected by the spill on Mindoro and Panay islands.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, in a statement, said that it set aside an initial P4 million for livelihood assistance to affected fisherfolk.
The Department of Health asked residents of coastal areas in Oriental Mindoro affected by the spill to take health measures, such as wearing of industrial masks and to avoid drinking water from contaminated sources, to prevent the risk of developing illnesses. —REPORTS FROM MADONNA T. VIROLA, DELFIN T. MALLARI JR., JORDEENE B. LAGARE, KATHLEEN DE VILLA AND CONNIE FERNANDEZ-BROJAN
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