BFAR urges Oriental Mindoro to keep fishing ban after contaminants found in samples

Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 21 2023 06:07 PM | Updated as of Mar 21 2023 08:27 PM

Villagers view a dead bird along a beach in the coastal town of Pola, Mindoro island, Philippines, March 5, 2023. Thousands of fishermen have been ordered stay ashore as fishing activities were restricted. Francis R. Malasig, EPA-EFE

MANILA — The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Tuesday urged Oriental Mindoro to continue its fishing ban after traces of petroleum and contaminants were detected in water and fish samples from the province hit by a massive oil spill. 

The BFAR said water samples collected from March 3 to 14 yielded "traces of petroleum products, particularly oil and grease." 

The bureau said it also found "low-level contaminants or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)" in the fish samples from Naujan, Pola, Pinamalayan, Bansud, Gloria, Roxas, Mansalay, Bongabong, and Bulalacao in Oriental Mindoro. 

PAH is "harmful to humans and other living organisms" and "may accumulate in the flesh of fish over time," the BFAR said. 

It said the results of its analyses were "not yet conclusive" and further tests were needed, considering that the oil spill has reached neighboring areas like Caluya, Antique and some municipalities in Palawan.

"In the meantime, the DA-BFAR recommends the continuous suspension of fishing activities in the aforementioned areas in Oriental Mindoro for public safety. The Bureau advises LGUs concerned to heed this science-based recommendation," it said. 

The BFAR said it was conducting separate tests on water and fish samples from Caluya, Antique, which also declared a fishing ban. 

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. 

Authorities earlier said the MT Princess Empress is believed to be about 400 meters below the waves. 

A Japanese remotely operated vehicle (ROV) has located the sunken tanker, Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor said earlier Tuesday. 

More than 2,500 hectares of coral reefs, mangroves and seaweed could be affected by the spill, the environment department said previously.

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

— With a report from Agence France-Presse


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