Hold Coast Guard, Marina accountable for Mindoro oil spill: senator

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 17 2023 06:33 PM | Updated as of Mar 17 2023 10:34 PM

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MANILA (UPDATED)- Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Friday pressed for the accountability of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) officials who allowed MT Princess Empress, the tanker responsible for the Mindoro oil spill, to sail despite being a "scrap ship."

Hontiveros said PCG and Marina officials who directly allowed MT Princess Empress, owned by RDC Reield Marine Services, to sail must be made accountable for their “undeniable negligence and nonfeasance in this incident.”

“PCG officials who directly allowed this 'scrap ship' to depart from Bataan on February 27, 2023 - despite not meeting all requirements in the PCG’s own pre-departure checklist - should face the full brunt of the law. They should answer not only for this incident, but also for the alleged eight other times that the scrap ship had been allowed to sail,” Hontiveros said.

“Marina officials who allowed the ship to operate despite it not being sea-worthy should also be held liable, if it is true that the reportedly 50-year-old ship was not refurbished according to standards. We also need to confirm whether or not the certificate of public convenience (CPC) of RDC Reield Marine Services was duly amended to cover that ship,” she added.

Sen. Robin Padilla meanwhile called on Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Sen. Francis Tolentino to assume the investigation on the incident.

The oil spill incident involving a reportedly refurbished ship would not have happened if the Constitution allows foreign corporations to engage in shipping business, Padilla said.

But for Sen. Francis Escudero, there is no sufficient evidence yet “on record” that there is “bad faith” on the part of the involved parties.

“We have to dig deeper, especially on the side of Marina insofar as their accreditation procedure and personnel are concerned... and on the part of Coast Guard... I will not be surprised if the investigation reveals that money changed hands somewhere... somehow,” Escudero said.

Sen. Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo that Oriental Mindoro will file charges against the ship's management.

However, she said the owner of the oil cargo itself does not have any liability, under the law. Only the vessel's firm will be held responsible, Villar added.

Authorities were unable to identify the owner of the oil, the senator said.

She said both the LGU and national government have to provide for the welfare and livelihood of affected residents who rely on Oriental Mindoro's natural resources.