By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
MANILA – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Saturday confirmed it sought the assistance of the United States to contain an oil spill in Oriental Mindoro that is fast spreading to other coastal communities.
The M/T Princess Empress carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil sank off the coast of Naujan on Feb. 28.
PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu said the oil slick has already reached more municipalities, with the farthest recorded in Caluya Island, Antique.
On Friday, it was reported that the oil spill has reached Barangay Casian, Taytay, Palawan, which is approximately 159 nautical miles or 295 km. from the Naujan accident site.
“I have sent a letter to the Embassy of the United States through the Coast Guard na nangangailangan tayo ng tulong (that we need help),” he said at the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City.
“Generic naman iyon, kung anong maibabagay nila, like equipment, kung ano nasa kanilang kakayahan (The content of the letter is generic, requesting only what they could provide),” he added.
Abu said the tanker had sunk at least 389 meters beneath the water’s surface but the country’s available equipment to contain oil leaking from the vessel itself has “limited depth coverage.”
“(We need a) remote(ly) operated vehicle (ROV). Ito ang pinakamahalaga. Ang first objective natin is to contain the oil from the source (This is the most important thing. Our first objective is to contain the oil from the source),” he said.
He said the Philippines has a new ROV but it could not go that deep.
A team from Japan arrived on Friday and had already met with the PCG and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The DENR earlier said South Korea had expressed its intention to help control the spill, aside from other foreign experts and coast guards willing to assist the Philippines.
Representatives from various agencies will meet with PCG officials on Monday.
“Marami pa ang nagpiprisintang bansa sa atin. Sa Lunes may iba-ibang bansa ang gustong makita ang pamunuan ng (Many of them offered to help our country. On Monday, different states will meet with the) Philippine Coast Guard to be able to extend assistance), to figure out how they will be of help to the Coast Guard and to Philippine government in addressing this oil spill incident,” he said.
Asked if Manila is open to seeking help from China, whose coast guard vessels have been repeatedly recorded loitering near Philippine waters, Abu said it’s possible.
The PCG could not yet determine the extent of recovery efforts needed until it has reached the wreckage, he said, adding that they would work closely with other agencies to remove the slick as soon as possible in line with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s instruction to finish the cleanup in four months.
“Magtutulung-tulong po tayo (We will help each other out). This is not just about the effort of the Coast Guard but this is a whole-of-government approach,” he said. (PNA)