By Benjamin Pulta

OIL SPILL INTER-AGENCY COMMITTEE. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla (center) leads the meeting of the Oil Spill Inter-Agency Committee over the various issues surrounding the MT Princess Empress at the Department of Justice (DOJ) building in Manila on Thursday (March 23, 2023). The owner of the sunken vessel has been slapped with two cease and desist orders and is facing hefty fines over the contamination caused by the oil spill over a biodiverse area off the waters of Mindoro and neighboring islands. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA — Maritime regulatory authorities on Thursday confirmed that they had issued cease and desist orders against the company that owns the sunken MT Princess Empress which has caused an oil spill in a critical biodiverse area off Mindoro Island.

In an ambush interview following the meeting of the Oil Spill Inter-Agency Committee at the Department of Justice (DOJ), Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) administrator Hernani Fabia said the agency issued two cease and desist orders against RDC Reield Marine Services – one for its Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) and the other against the continued operations of its remaining three vessels.

The orders will remain in effect until the satisfactory completion of the investigations into the oil spill, he said.

Fabia likewise clarified that based on MARINA’s records, the sunken vessel was classified as “newly-constructed” to differentiate it from vessels considered “brand new.”

“This is not new, it’s newly constructed from scratch,” he said.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has earlier said that the tanker was already old and was not built to be a tanker from the beginning.

Meanwhile, during the inter-agency meeting, Environment Undersecretary Ignatius Rodriguez said administrative fines of PHP 471,000 per day from March 1 until the oil spill is resolved may be imposed on the vessel’s owners due to “contamination.”

He however said that they are still collecting more samples.

Besides Remulla, Fabia and Rodriguez, also in attendance during the meeting were Committee head Raul Vasquez, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, Coast Guard Admiral Artemio Abu, and Relly Garcia of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, among others. (PNA)