MANILA — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Tuesday said it had no hand in checking if the sunken motor tanker Princess Empress was a 'scrap ship,' a day after a lawmaker said the vessel responsible for the massive Mindoro oil spill was not up to standards.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Monday said the PCG and the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) should be held accountable for allowing MT Princess Empress to sail. The opposition lawmaker alleged that the tanker was 50 years old and had not bee refurbished according to standards.
“Wala kaming hand doon sa, alam mo, sa pagbi-build ng barko at yung pagpapayag dito,” said PCG spokesperson Rear Admiral Armand Balilo.
“Ang sa amin ay pagki-clear pagka sila’y magse-sail na ‘no, at pagka pumunta sa mga stations,” he added.
(We have no hand in the building of a ship or allowing a ship to be built. We're in charge of clearing it to sail and when it goes to the stations.)
But Balilo stressed that the PCG was willing to face any probe regarding the incident.
“Kung meron information na makakatulong, tayo naman po ay open sa ganyan,” he said.
(If we have information that can help, of course we are open to that.)
The official said the owner of the tanker was able to show them a certificate of public convenience (CPC).
A CPC is a franchise that grants permission to operate in certain public activities.
“Dahil Marina ito galing, nagpi-presume kami ng regularity... Nakakalayag na yung barko eh. Ang iniisip namin dito may prangkisa ito, at saka may ibang dokumento pa bukod dito, na magsasabi na legit itong operations nila,” Balilo said.
(Because it came from Marina, we presumed regularity. The fact is the ship has been sailing. We thought it had a franchise and other documents proving its operations were legitimate.)
“Ngayon kung ito’y fake, eh dapat ipa-explain natin yung may-ari at papanagutin natin bakit nila ginagamit itong dokumento na ito,” he stressed.
(Now, if they were using fake documents, the owners must be made to explain.)
Marina has since denied issuing the permit that allowed the MT Princess Empress to set sail before it capsized while carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil.
The submerged tanker is believed to be about 400 meters below the waves.
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.
Thousands of fishermen have been ordered to stay on shore until they can fish safely, and swimming is also banned.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse