Mindoro oil spill victims reach 19,000

By: Dempsey Reyes, Joey Marzan - Philippine Daily Inquirer | March 12,2023 - 12:49 PM

Many residents in Oriental Mindoro have already fallen ill due to the industrial oil spilled by the sunken tanker MT Princess Empress

DESERTED Fishing boats are left idle along the shoreline of Pola, Oriental Mindoro in this photo taken on Thursday, March 9, 2023, following the widespread oil spill that affects the livelihood of local fishermen. PHOTO COURTESY OF NOEL GUEVARA OF GREENPEACE

MANILA, Philippines — Oriental Mindoro residents affected by the oil spill from the tanker Princess Empress have risen to 19,000, Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian announced on Saturday.

But the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will begin on March 15 a cash-for-work program, in addition to the food relief that is already being distributed, to help affected residents and pump-prime the local economy.

“Our list of beneficiaries keep on expanding since more areas are being affected by the spill,” Gatchalian said in a radio interview on Saturday.

“All of them will be given food packs and these are not just one-time food packs, but it will be [sustained] since we all know that they weren’t able to do their daily work because of the spill,” Gatchalian added.

The DSWD has been distributing food packs in Oriental Mindoro shortly after the MT Princess Empress sank in waters between Mindoro island and Marinduque.

But the resulting oil spill has devastated almost all towns in Mindoro’s east coast, particularly Pola town, before moving south, then southwest before reaching an island village in Taytay, Palawan, on Friday.

Cash-for-work program

According to the Maritime Industry Authority, it had already communicated with the operator of the tanker, RDC Reield Marine Services Inc., and suspended its safety certificate until it satisfies reportorial requirements.

Under the cash-for-work program, affected residents will be paid P355 daily (the minimum wage in the Mimaropa region) for 15 days to help in the oil spill cleanup led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Gatchalian said the wages will be paid by the DSWD every five days over the 15-day period.

P84-M cleanup budget

“The fishermen there want to be part of the solution. They don’t want to sit idly there and just watch while their home province is being cleaned up by other people,” he explained.

The DSWD has allotted more than P84.4 million for the program, but that was only for about 14,220 expected participants.

Gatchalian, however, said the program will also be implemented in other areas that may be affected by the oil spill.

The residents will also be trained on proper protocols for cleaning up an oil spill, Gatchalian said.

Maria Rosario Vergeire, the officer in charge of the Department of Health, has already gone to Mindoro to help orient residents on the proper protocols, he added.

If need be, Gatchalian said, the program may also be expanded to other affected areas, like Antique and Palawan.

After devastating fishing villages in Mindoro’s eastern coast, the oil spill moved to the island town of Caluya in neighboring Antique, a group of five islands in the Tablas Strait between Mindoro and Panay.

Gatchalian said affected families already received P8,000 cash assistance from the DSWD and more families may receive such aid by next week.

The department will also have an emergency cash transfer program for over 1,000 individuals in Agutaya, Palawan.

The Office of Civil Defense’s (OCD) regional office in Western Visayas said agricultural damage in Caluya town had already reached P3.8 million.

At least 16,400 liters of oil were found stretching eight kilometers off Semirara and Liwagao islands, the OCD said in a report.


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