By Benjamin Pulta

OIL SPILL. A Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) troop siphons ocean water mixed with oil in Oriental Mindoro for evaluation in this undated photo. The oil spill displaced more than 27,000 workers in the province, mostly fisherfolk. (Photo courtesy of PCG)

MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday ordered the filing of criminal charges against the owners of the M/T Princess Empress and several others for their part in the oil spill that hit Oriental Mindoro and Batangas provinces last year.

Named as respondents were corporate officers, along with several employees of RDC Reield Marines Services, Inc., the shipping company that owns M/T Princess Empress, 19 Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel, and two Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) personnel, the agency said in a statement.

The charges include multiple counts of falsification of private documents, use of falsified documents, and multiple counts of falsification of public documents.

The Feb. 28 sinking of the oil tanker affected more than 75 km. of coastline and 42,400 families from 107 affected areas in the provinces of Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Antique, and Batangas.

“Following a comprehensive evaluation of affidavits and evidence, the panel of DOJ prosecutors uncovered irregularities in certain documents related to the construction and certificate of public convenience of M/T Princess Empress,” the DOJ said.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, meanwhile, said “negligence cannot be used as an excuse to destroy the environment and livelihood of people.”

“It is important to be diligent on land and on our waters,” he said.

The case stemmed from the cases filed by the National Bureau of Investigation and officials of affected local government units. (PNA)