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Monday, April 15, 2024

Oil tanker mishap in Oriental Mindoro raises fears of possible environmental catastrophe

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AN oil tanker carrying at least 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil sank in the waters of Oriental Mindoro on Tuesday, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), raising fears of a possible oil spill.

The MT Princess Empress with 20 crewmen on board was en route to Iloilo from Bataan carrying its cargo when it developed engine trouble due to overheating, and drifted toward Balingawan Point in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro where it is now half submerged.

The PCG deployed one of its vessels, BRP Melchora Aquino (MRRV-9702), and an airbus helicopter to respond to the incident.

Greenpeace statement

With the threat of a possible oil spill, the environmental group Greenpeace International decried the continued use in the country of fossil fuels, saying it is the fishermen who would be affected the most in case of such a disaster.

“Fossil fuels destroy biodiversity and human lives. When incidents like oil spills happen, companies are allowed to just move on, while fisherfolk and coastal communities bear the brunt of the consequences,” Greenpeace campaigner Jefferson Chua said.

“If the government is really committed to protecting the environment, as it has claimed since its inauguration, it must end the Philippines’ fossil fuel dependence and start making oil, coal and gas corporations accountable,” Chua added in a statement.

He said the fossil fuel industry must pay for their businesses’ direct impacts on the environment, as well as the massive loss and damage resulting from the impacts of the climate crisis.

“Fossil fuel corporations are morally obligated to make the shift to renewable energy sources—and, based on their record profits last year, have more than enough capacity to do so. We demand that these companies acknowledge the danger they are putting us in, pay climate reparations, and stop further expansion of their toxic operations,” Chua said.

PCG assessment

“The PCG has deployed BRP Melchora Aquino [MRRV-9702] and the Coast Guard District Southern Tagalog to provide necessary assistance and assess the vicinity waters for possible traces of an oil spill,” Commodore Armand Balilo, for his part, said.

“The PCG Command Center has also directed the Coast Guard Aviation Force to dispatch one airbus helicopter for aerial surveillance,” the PCG spokesman added.

A passing foreign vessel, MV Efes, rescued the 20 crewmen.

Meanwhile, the Navy’s Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM), through its Naval Task Group-Tawi-Tawi, rescued seven crewmembers and 17 passengers aboard a distressed Philippine-registered vessel in the waters of Tanjung Labian, Malaysia on Sunday.

A statement from the Naval Forces Western Mindanao said it received a distress call from ML Rihana that it has encountered engine trouble and was left drifting 4.5 nautical miles northeast off Tagupi Island, Malaysia.

Through its close coordination with Royal Malaysian Ship (RMN) Todak, the vessel was towed to the anchorage area in Tanjung Labian, Malaysia.

The NFWM then sent the BRP Florencio Iñigo (PC393) to Malaysia and towed the vessel to Lamion Wharf in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.

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