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Friday, April 19, 2024

Protocols in responding to oil spills and environmental disasters pushed

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A lawmaker is pushing for the establishment of interagency protocols that would bring government agencies in close coordination with each other to swiftly mobilize and address the impact of environmental disasters on affected communities and ecosystems. 

Bicol Saro Party-list Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan said a “whole-of-government” approach could change the current “reactionary” mindset in government of addressing the widespread and debilitating effects of environmental hazards and catastrophes, such as the oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress, which capsized in the waters off Oriental Mindoro last February 28.

Yamsuan encouraged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and other agencies involved in handling the effects of the oil spill to “get their acts together” and put in place protocols to ensure that incidents of this nature would be better dealt with in the future. 

“How many oil spills have happened in the entire Philippines? Up to now we have not yet formed established protocols that we can follow. I’m saying this because we cannot solve the problem in this manner,” said the lawmaker. 

Yamsuan made the call at the hearing after resource persons from various government agencies appear to be uncoordinated in their efforts to address the MT Princess oil spill three months after the incident, which has affected close to 41,000 families living in shoreline communities and left over 200 people ill. 

The issue of food safety, for one, received different responses from the DENR and BFAR.

The hearing by the ecology committee chaired by Biñan City Lone District Rep. Marlyn Alonte, and the natural resources committee chaired by Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., was a continuation of the inquiry into the MT Empress oil spill.

Yamsuan suggested that government agencies speak with one voice on the issue and create a task force to better deal with the problem.

“It’s high time for us to change our mindset. We should not be reactionary. Not like this, where you point fingers at others when we conduct hearings,” he said. “I suggest that you get your acts together,” added Yamsuan. 

At least 10 municipalities in Oriental Mindoro as well as coastal areas in Palawan, Antique, and Romblon have been affected by the oil spill. 

The area of the oil spill is a rich fishing ground that provides food and livelihood to more than two million people.

According to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), traces of oil spill from the sunken vessel had reached Verde Island in Batangas City, which is at the heart of the Verde Island Passage (VIP), recognized as the center of global shore fish biodiversity.

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