Sunken Philippine Oil Tanker Found after 3 Weeks

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Credit: jason-blackeye-unsplash

A Japanese remotely operated vehicle (ROV) has located the motor tanker Princess Empress nearly a month since it sank in the waters off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. Gov. Humerlito Dolor of Oriental Mindoro said that Japan’s ROV successfully located the sunken MT Princess Empress before 10 a.m., capturing some photos of the vessel that will help authorities plan their next course of action, reports philstar Global.

The sunken tanker

“The photos taken by the ROV will be the basis to finally have a clear plan on how to remove if there is oil inside or what to do should there be holes in the sunken ship,” Dolor said in Filipino at a press briefing yesterday.

The location of the sunken tanker was found by authorities 21 days after the Philippine government had launched its oil spill response operation on March 1.

Dolor said they are expecting the experts to come out with their reports “within a maximum of five days” about the condition of the motor tanker. The experts are expected to send their recommendations on what steps will be undertaken after the discovery of the vessel’s location.

He said there are two British nationals making the analysis based on material recovered by the ROV.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commodore Geronimo Tuvilla said it is important for the Philippine government to receive daily updates of the Japanese authorities, as far as the oil spill response is concerned, so that they will be able to determine their course of action.

Experts arrive

Eight experts from the US government arrived yesterday in Pola, Oriental Mindoro to assist in the oil spill response operations of the PCG at the request of the Philippine government.

The US embassy in Manila said the US expert team composed of five personnel from the US Coast Guard (USCG) National Strike Force will provide subject matter expertise and assess the most effective method to contain and clean up the oil spill.

Two members from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will provide technical support to assess the damage caused by the oil spill, while a US Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving will evaluate the technical parameters required to support the possible deployment of a remotely operated vehicle.

NOAA has provided the PCG with satellite imagery to boost assessment efforts.

It also provided the University of the Philippines-Marine Sciences Institute with support for scientific modeling to estimate the trajectory of the spill.

Prior to their deployment to Pola, the American experts received a briefing on Monday in Manila from the PCG and the Japan Disaster Relief Expert Team about oil-spill mitigation actions taken so far.

“When vessels are in deep water, as in this case, cleaning up the remaining oil becomes a complicated issue. Through our incident management professionals’ wealth of experience and strong expertise in oil spill response, we will assist the PCG in developing safe and efficient methods to contain and recover the oil and minimize damage to the environment,” said Commander Stacey Crecy, commanding officer of the USCG Pacific Strike Team.

Cleanup

The US government has committed to help in the efforts to clean up the massive oil spill in Oriental Mindoro, Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. told President Marcos during a meeting at Malacañang yesterday.

Galvez said he spoke with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Monday night and he has committed to deploy naval units to help in the cleanup operation in the area.

“I had a phone call last night with Sec. Austin at 7:45 p.m. They are committed to help in coordination with Japan and other countries,” Galvez said.

The Philippine government, Galvez said, would also continue to seek the expertise and technical support of other partner countries, such as France and the United Kingdom, in containing the oil spill in Mindoro.

Meanwhile, Climate Change Commissioner Albert dela Cruz Sr. warned against the use of chemical-based dispersants to break down the oil spill as it might harm the marine ecosystem.

Dela Crz said that when dispersants are sprayed on a surface oil slick, the oil is broken down into smaller droplets that more readily mix with water. The said droplets do not actually reduce the amount of oil entering the environment but push the effects of the oil spill underwater and this could have harmful effects on the marine environment and ecosystem.

Various government agencies and the local government unit of Oriental Mindoro have stepped up efforts to address the effects of the oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director and Office of Civil Defense administrator Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno, Office of Civil Defense-MIMAROPA regional director Eugene Cabrera, Commodore Tuvilla and Gov. Dolor oversaw the deployment of the ROV, brought aboard Japanese dynamic positioning vessel (DPV) Shin Nichi Maru. The officials also conducted an assessment of the oil spill in Pola, Oriental Mindoro.

At a briefing held yesterday, officials from the PCG and concerned LGUs discussed the ongoing oil spill management operations, including the entry and deployment of the Japanese vessel that will assist in the operations.

Meanwhile, environmental group Oceana has urged the government to hasten its response in addressing the oil spill that has reached the Isla Verde.

Daniel Ocampo, Oceana senior campaign manager, noted that there are still a lot of unknowns hampering the response efforts to contain the oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress, which was reportedly carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it ran aground due to engine trouble on Feb. 28 and sank the following day.

“There are still many questions, we hope the response of government should be quick and put all the resources that we have,” he said in an interview on OneNews’ The Chiefs.

He said that “fingerprint” analysis of the oil, which will determine the contents and other characteristics, and volume of the oil spill have yet to be answered.

“That question should have been answered as soon as the ship sank so that we really know if we have we seen the worst or should we prepare for what’s coming? That is the question that needs to be answered,” he added.

Assistance

Communities affected by the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro will continue to receive assistance from the government Malacañang said yesterday as more organizations and countries joined the massive cleanup operations.

In an interview at Malacañang, Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said that government has sufficient funds for the affected families.

She said concerned government agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) are using their current budget for disaster relief and livelihood assistance programs.

As of Sunday, the oil spill has affected 32,661 families in Mimaropa and Western Visayas, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said, citing a recent report from the Region 6 Task Force on Oil Spill.

“Under President Marcos’ directive, different government agencies are carrying out programs aimed at assisting the local population affected by the oil spill. The Marcos administration has promised to sustain the assistance being extended to the families affected by the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro that already reached other provinces in Mimaropa and Western Visayas,” the PCO said.

Apart from providing food packs, the DSWD is currently implementing a 45-day cash-for-work program involving 7,198 families while the DOLE has started the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) Program in three barangays in Caluya, Antique.

Documents sought

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued subpoenas to the PCG, Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) and Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) for documents related to the recent oil spill, in a move that could lead to findings to hold all responsible parties – including those in government – accountable.

“We have delivered the subpoenas for all the documents we need from the different agencies, especially Marina, the Coast Guard and some other agencies that may be involved here. We’re also asking for documents from the PPA for the records in the Port of Limay, Bataan where the loading was done in the boat, the loading of the cargo, we want to find out exactly the cargo that’s there, the exact definition of the cargo,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told reporters.

“All the details of the oil spill (will surface), we want to delve into this because we think that there should be liabilities here, there should be criminal liability involved in this case,” he added.

Remulla said the DOJ is meeting with various government agencies on Thursday to receive the subpoenaed documents and to determine the next course of action, including a resolution that turns the responsibility for the cleanup to the government, which would then be reimbursed by those responsible.

“The Guimaras oil spill took six days (to provide the ROVs) because Petron was involved and it took 21 days to suck out everything. Now, it has been 21 days since the oil spill and up to now we don’t have ROVs that’s why on Thursday, our agenda is if they can’t provide the ROVs, the government will undertake it on its own by hiring the best people for this job,” Remulla added.

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Source: Philstar Global

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