Mindoro oil spill: Marina creates fact-finding committee on MT Princess Empress

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 05 2023 05:54 PM

Philippine Coast Guard
The Philippine Coast Guard deploys an oil spill boom and skimmer with manual scooping around the suspected area of the sunken MT Princess Empress approximately 7.1 nautical miles northeast of the shorelines of Balingawan Port, Lucta Port, and Buloc Bay in Oriental Mindoro on March 14, 2023. Photo courtesy of Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation/Philippine Coast Guard

MANILA — The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) has created a fact-finding committee on the sinking of MT Princess Empress causing a massive oil spill in Oriental Mindoro, an official said Wednesday. 

Ronald Bandalaria, the agency's director, said they have created a committee to verify the claim that the ship was newly constructed.

Marina administrator Hernani Fabia earlier said that based on their records, the ship was a "new construction." The results of their investigation will be submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). 

"Tinitingnan po ng Marina ang bagay na iyan," Bandalaria said in a televised briefing. 

"Actually, mayroon pong binuong fact-finding committee ang MARINA para po tingnan ang mga lumalabas pong usapin tungkol po diyan sa kung bago o hindi. Kaya po hintayin na lang natin ang magiging resulta ng fact finding committee," he added. 

The agency earlier issued two cease and desist orders against the remaining vessels of RDC Reield Marine Services, the company that owns MT Princess Empress. 

Bandelaria said they are inspecting thoroughly the company's remaining vessels to check their compliance with regulations. 

If proven that the company committed violations, the official said they could cancel or revoke their Certificate of Public Convenience and impose administrative fines and penalties. 

The cancelation of such certificate, he noted, means the firm would not be able to operate their vessels at all. 

"Ongoing din po ang proseso ng administrative cases ng naturang kompanya. Hindi din po natin masabi kung hanggang kailan ang magiging closure order," he said. 

"Kasama rin sa show cause order ng MARINA na pinagpapaliwanag ang marine surveying company, ang shipyard at ang local class society po. Ito po ay bahagi ng ating administrative procedures sa MARINA," he added. 

Officials and experts have yet to seal MT Princess Empress' shipwreck, which was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it went down in rough seas late February. 

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

Dozens of people have also fallen ill in Oriental Mindoro after oil washed up on their shores, the provincial government said. 

Video from PTV