MANILA (UPDATED) — A Japanese remotely operated vehicle (ROV) has located the sunken tanker that caused a massive oil spill off Oriental Mindoro, the province's Governor Humerlito Dolor said on Tuesday.
The MT Princess Empress was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it went down in rough seas on Feb. 28. It is believed to be about 400 meters below the waves, authorities earlier said.
The Philippines had sought help from Japan and the US as local authorities lacked the capability to reach the wreckage and remove the oil.
Japan 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.
In a press briefing following the discovery of the sunken tanker, Dolor showed photos captured by the ROV and said these could be used by experts and local government as a basis to stop the further spread of oil spill.
"[Ito ay] maaaring maging basehan... para finally makagawa ng maliwanag na plano paano aalisin, kung mayroon man, na langis sa loob, or ano ang kailangang gawin para takpan, kung mayroon man, ang mga butas sa barkong ito," the governor said.
(This can be a basis... to finally make a clear plan on how to remove, if any, the oil inside, or what needs to be done to cover, if any, the holes in this ship.)
It is not known how much diesel and oil have leaked into the water.
Dolor added that Japanese experts would release a comprehensive report on the tanker within 3 to 5 days.
Meanwhile, Coast Guard Commodore Geronimo Tuvilla said the detection of the ill-fated tanker was "very important," saying: "We now have an eye underneath."
Tuvilla said experts initially estimated the location of the sunken MT Princess Empress at some 400 meters into the sea.
He also confirmed the arrival of the US coast guard earlier Tuesday to help with the cleanup efforts.
"We will have a briefing with them," he said.
FISHING BAN STAYS
Dolor said that he has approved the recommendation of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to keep the fishing ban to ensure the safety of residents.
"Hindi pa po ito safe for human consumption kasi nag-a-accumulate ang contamination sa flesh ng marine products," he said.
(It is not yet safe for human consumption because contamination accumulates in the flesh of marine products.)
Thousands of fishermen have been ordered to stay on shore until they can fish safely, and swimming is also banned.
Dozens of people have fallen ill in Oriental Mindoro after oil washed up on their shores, the provincial government said.
More than 2,500 hectares of coral reefs, mangroves, and seaweed could be affected by the spill, the environment department said previously.
— With reports from Dennis Datu, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse