Fish supply enough for Lent despite Mindoro oil spill: BFAR

Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 20 2023 03:59 PM

Vendors tend to their produce at the fish and meat stalls in Guadalupe Public Market in Makati City on Jan. 13, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Vendors tend to their produce at the fish and meat stalls in Guadalupe Public Market in Makati City on Jan. 13, 2023. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The fish supply in the country will be enough for Lent, despite a massive oil spill off Oriental Mindoro, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said on Monday. 

The motor tanker Princess Empress was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel when it went down in rough seas on Feb. 28. Thousands of fishermen in Oriental Mindoro have been ordered to stay ashore while government struggled to clean up spillage from the sunken vessel. 

While fish supply is expected to be "limited" in areas near the oil spill, this has yet to be felt on a national scale, said BFAR chief information officer Nazario Briguera. 

The fishing season is also in its peak and the prices of some fish like galunggong even went down ahead of Lent, when Catholics refrain from eating meat, he said. 

"Generally speaking po, magiging sapat po ang suplay ng ating isda pagdating po ng Semana Santa. Magkaroon man ito ng kaunting pagsipa [sa presyo] because of the demand, pero manageable po ito dahil nga sa ngayon ay maganda po ang estate ng ating supply, " he said in a public briefing.

(The supply of our fish will be enough come Holy Week. Even if the prices slightly increase because of the demand, this will be manageable because our supply is in good condition.) 


However, the official estimated that around P5 million in potential income is lost every day that fishermen are banned from venturing out to sea due to the oil spill. 

The spillage will also have a long-term effect on the reproduction and growth of fish in the area, Briguera said. 

"Sa kapaligiran, malaki po ang impact nito kasi mga critical marine habitats 'yung tinamaan po ng oil spill at definitely may negatibong impact po ito ating mga isda lalo na po doon sa mga fish larvae, itlog, doon sa mga bakawanan," he said. 

(In the environment, it has a big impact because critical marine habitats were hit by the oil spill and it definitely has a negative impact on our fish, especially on the fish larvae, eggs, and the mangroves.)

"Kapag inabot din itong mga coral reefs ay definitely maaapektuhan din po ang reproduksyon ng mga isda doon sa naturang lugar. Nakakalungkot ito dahil may long term effect po ito kasi talaga ang oil spill po ay nakakaapekto maging sa paglaki ng isda ay may epekto ito."

(When these coral reefs are also reached, the reproduction of the fish in that area will definitely be affected. This is sad because it has a long term effect on even the growth of fish.) 

The BFAR is giving relief goods and livelihood assistance to fisherfolk affected by the oil spill. 

The MT Princess Empress is believed to be about 400 meters below the waves, but Philippine authorities have said the country does not have the capability to reach the wreckage and remove the oil.

Japan has sent coast guard personnel to Manila to support the investigation into the spill and "guide the ongoing oil removal and control activities", the Philippine Coast Guard said Friday.

Manila had also requested assistance from the United States, coast guard spokesman Armando Balilo told AFP.

More than 2,500 hectares (6,200 acres) of coral reefs, mangroves and seaweed could be affected by the spill, the environment ministry said previously.

It is not known how much diesel and oil have leaked into the water.

— With a report from Agence France-Presse

Video from PTV