Oil spill leaves P130-M damage in Pola, Oriental Mindoro, says mayor

Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 17 2023 05:03 PM | Updated as of Apr 17 2023 05:36 PM

Watch more News on iWantTFC

MANILA (UPDATED) — Pola, Oriental Mindoro has so far sustained around P130 million in damage from the oil spill that spread across the province's waters, Pola Mayor Jennifer Cruz said Monday.

“More or less, nasa P130 million ang naapektuhan sa shoreline pa lang natin,” Cruz said in a public briefing.

(The damage to our shorelines, at the very least, is at more or less P130 million.) 

She said that while the volume of oil reaching their area from the sunken tanker MT Princess Empress has been significantly reduced, the town continues to suffer from the effects of the spill.

"Simula noong nagka-oil spill ang Pola, kung noon ay 100 percent, ngayon mga 60 to 70 percent na,” she said.

(Since Pola was hit by the oil spill, if the damage was initially at 100 percent, now it is around 60 to 70 percent.) 

Some 4,800 fisherfolk and their families have been affected by the oil spill, a number of whom experienced respiratory illnesses aside from losing their livelihood.

“Kasi noong unang bugso talaga ng oil, napakahirap namin. Noong unang 3 days, wala kaming katulong kung hindi iyong ating mga Bantay Dagat, fisherfolk, at naglinis ng dalampasigan; dumating lang sila mga after three or four days na,” she said.

(During the first few days of the spill, it was difficult for us. On the first 3 days, we did not have anyone else to rely on except for our Bantay Dagat personnel and fisherfolk to clean our shores. Authorities only came three or four days later.) 

“So talagang nagkasakit sila, nagkaroon ng respiratory problem. At ngayon ay tinututukan ng ating mga MHO (municipal health office) at doctor iyong 200 plus natin, more or less, 80 na lang ang under observation.”

(So they fell ill and suffered respiratory problems. Our municipal health office and town doctor had to look after more than 200 patients. But now only 80 remain under observation.)

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard announced the completion of underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) operations conducted by ukada Salvage and Marine Works and U.S. Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (USN SUPSALV).

The Japanese Dynamic Positioning Vessel (DPV), Shin Nichi Maru, first deployed ROV Hakuyo on March 21 and it later found 24 sources of leakage.

By April 1, DPV Shin Nichi Maru found that 11 out of the 24 previously identified sources remain leaking.

On April 2, the USN SUPSALV-contracted DPV Pacific Valkyrie arrived in Calapan to help in the operations.

The ROVs capped the oil-leaking sections of the sunken tanker, and both the DPV Shin Nichi Maru and Pacific Valkyrie have already completed their missions and already departed their operation areas as of April 5 and 7, respectively.

PCG said that their is still one remaining pressure valve producing a "slow intermittent release of oil" and it was not capped "due to obstructions that may compromise the ROV operations."

On Saturday, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. conducted an aerial inspection of the area to assess the extent of damage caused by the oil spill. 

He also led the distribution of aid to some 1,200 beneficiaries in Pola.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) earlier said that the Mindoro oil spill has caused more than P1 billion in damage, with P19 million worth of daily losses since MT Princess Empress sank on Feb. 23.

More than 178,000 people across several provinces near Oriental Mindoro have also been affected by the spill, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DENR) earlier said.