By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

(File photo)

MANILA – About 84 percent or 62.95 km. of the 74.71-km. shoreline affected by the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro province have been cleaned up as of May 10, Malacañang announced Friday.

The cleanup update was reported to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. by Department of National Defense chief Carlito Galvez Jr., according to a statement released by Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil.

“In an update to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., Galvez reported that of the 74.71 kilometers of affected coastline, 62.95 kilometers, or 84.26 percent, has been cleaned as of May 10, 2023,” Garafil said, noting that the data was first reported during the May 11 meeting with the National Task Force and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).

“Galvez said the OCD recorded a total of 6,801 liters of oil waste and 300,603.60 liters of oil-contaminated waste that have been collected through the combined efforts of various agencies and organizations,” she added.

A siphoning vessel from Singapore is expected to arrive in the country by the end of the month, while anticipated month-long oil removal operations are set to begin in the first week of June, based on the OCD report.

In March, the Japanese salvage vessel Shin Nichi Maru, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), arrived at the port of Calapan in Oriental Mindoro and was immediately deployed to the area to help in the cleanup efforts.

Fishing activities

Citing the 15th technical report of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Garafil said the municipal waters of Clusters 4 and 5 are now “within acceptable standards for fishing activities.”

Cluster 4 consists of the municipalities of Bongabong, Roxas, Mansalay, Bulalacao, while Cluster 5 includes the municipalities of San Teodoro, Baco, and Puerto Galera.

The waters of Clusters 1, 2, and 3 are still “not safe for fishing,” Garafil said.

Clusters 1, 2, and 3 comprise the towns of Naujan, Pola, Pinamalayan, Gloria, and Bansud, which are within the vicinity of the submerged ship.

Marcos, in his visit to Oriental Mindoro last month, directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government to coordinate with local officials to designate alternative fishing areas.

Galvez, Garafil said, had informed the President that BFAR is expected to release the water test results and its corresponding advisory not later than May 15.

She said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau would also plot water quality test sites on a map for visualization, while the Department of Tourism and P&I Correspondent Aqueous, Inc. would determine the number of insurance claimants under the tourism industry.

Recovery assistance

Meanwhile, the Marcos administration has already provided a total of PHP516,873,483 worth of early recovery assistance to about 96,256 affected residents, Galvez said.

He also mentioned that the National Economic and Development Authority, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Labor and Employment would identify alternative livelihoods for the affected population.

The M/T Princess Empress was reported to contain about 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it ran aground off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro on Feb. 28 due to engine trouble. It sank the following day.

Experts and coast guards from other countries also offered assistance in containing the oil spill. (PNA)