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Ferry runs aground in Bohol as PCG steps up measures to prevent oil spill in Mindoro

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A roll-on roll-off vessel carrying 12 rolling cargo ran aground in the shallow waters of Bohol on Tuesday, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported on Wednesday, even as the command said it has tapped several groups to stop an oil spill from a tanker that earlier sank in Oriental Mindoro in a separate maritime incident.

The MV Starlite Saturn, with 86 passengers and 55 crewmembers, ran aground at around 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday at the Danajon Bank, Calituban, and Talibon in Bohol while en route to Pier 5 in Cebu City from a port in Surigao. Two PCG sea marshals were also aboard the ill-fated vessel.

PCG spokesman Commodore Armand Balilo said that five hours after the incident, the PCG command center established contact with one of the two sea marshals on board identified as Seaman First Class Cliftun Bert Etulle, who reported that all the passengers and crew members of the Starlite Saturn were safe and in good physical condition.

Two hours after the contact with Etulle, the Coast Guard ship BRP Malamawi (FPB-2403) arrived at the Danajon Bank and rescued the passengers and crewmen.

On Thursday, the passengers and crewmembers were transferred from Malamawi to MV St. Camael, the rescue ship provided by the shipping line of the distressed vessel.

“Two PCG sea marshals and 14 truck drivers and operators remained on board to secure the rolling cargoes and MV Starlite Saturn,” Balilo said.

In Mindoro, Balilo said the PCG is working with a rescue and salvage ship sent by the owner of MT Princess Empress in their effort to stop the oil spill from the vessel, which completely sank in the waters of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, on Wednesday.

The tanker, with 20 crewmembers and carrying at least 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil, was en route to Iloilo from Bataan when it developed engine trouble due to overheating, and drifted toward Balingawan Point in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, on Tuesday.

The ship was still half submerged on Tuesday afternoon before it went into the bottom of the sea on Wednesday.

Balilo said that what initially leaked from the tanker was not the fossil fuel cargo that it was carrying but diesel oil, which as of Wednesday morning has already stretched about 6 kilometers long and 4  kilometers wide.

“The oil spill assessment by the PCG is continuing together with the Malayan Towage that was contracted by the RDC Reifield Marine Services Inc. (shipping company) to help in the oil spill response operation,” it said.

The PCG said that aside from the other vessels that it has already deployed in the area, it has also sent the BRP Habagat (TB-271) to serve as a marine pollution platform.

Also on Tuesday, the PCG rescued six passengers on board a distressed motor banca in the waters of Pandak Island, Hadji Muhtamad, Basilan.

The motor banca, skippered by 38-year-old Gabby Mundih, left Jolo, Sulu and en route to Zamboanga City when it encountered big waves that damaged its hull, causing it to submerge.

Meanwhile, the military joined other officials in welcoming the Philippine Inter-Agency Humanitarian Contingent (PIAHC) to Turkey upon their return to the country following the contingent’s successful deployment on February 8 to the quake-ravaged country.

The team, composed of 82 members, went to Turkey to extend humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations following the magnitude 7.8 quake that hit the country.

The contingent conducted urban search and rescue in Adiyaman City, Turkey wherein it assessed 36 buildings, retrieved six cadavers and extended medical assistance to 1,022 ambulatory cases.

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