All systems go for last phase of Oriental Mindoro oil spill cleanup

Bianca Dava, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 01 2023 06:47 PM

The Monrovian-registered Dynamic Support Vessel 'Fire Opal' arrived in Oriental Mindoro early this week. Philippine Coast Guard
The Monrovian-registered Dynamic Support Vessel 'Fire Opal' arrived in Oriental Mindoro early this week. Philippine Coast Guard

MANILA — A dynamic support vessel (DSV) chartered to siphon the remaining oil from the sunken MT Princess Empress in Oriental Mindoro will begin its operations on Saturday, June 3, the National Task Force on Oil Spill Management said.

The DSV Fire Opal left Singapore on May 19 and arrived at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone on May 26. From there, it proceeded to the affected waters to conduct its siphoning operations.

“Since Monday, upon arrival, they have conducted ocular inspection sa loob at ilalim, and until now, they are clearing the area, mga debris, para maavoid ang obstructions in the conduct of the siphoning operations,” Commodore Fideles Sallidao of the Philippine Coast Guard said in a press briefing on Thursday.

The oil extraction is expected to be completed within 20 to 30 days if weather conditions permit.

“It will take 20 to 30 days baka matapos na nila ang paghigop ng natitirang langis sa tanker kung maganda ang panahon,” Office of Civil Defense administration Ariel Nepomuceno said. “So far, nawala naman ang bagyo so maganda na ang pagkakataon ng paghigop sa langis.”

The MT Princess Empress ran aground off the coast of Pola, Oriental Mindoro on February 28.

It was carrying some 800,000 liters of industrial oil as cargo and fossil fuel in its engine.

“May walong compartments ang tanker. Sa 8 ‘yun, 2 ang paniniwala ng PCG na halos buo pa ang laman na iyon. So, ang 2 compartments pa na iyon, may estimated 250,000 liters pa, kung buo pa. Hindi pa masabi ngayon kung ‘yung sa 6 na nagleak dati ilan pa ang natitira sa loob… Wala pa tayong idea ilan exactly ang laman, ‘yun pa ang tatrabahuhin,” Nepomuceno said when asked how much oil is expected ro be extracted from the sunken vessel.

Sallidao explained, there are two options in the conduct of the siphoning operations: using catch cans or through hot tapping.

“They will be conducting two options: one is using catch cans that are specially fabricated for that operation—to cut off one of the pipes and ilagay ang catch cans,” Sallidao said.

He went on, “The other is through hot tapping—use hot water to push and melt the oil na possibly tumigas sa loob.”

The ongoing cleanup operations have so far collected 44,656 liters of oily water mixture, 10,708 sacks, 997 drums, 119 pails and 648 1-tonner bags of oil contaminated sand or debris and oily waste from Calabarzon, Mimaropa and Western Visayas.

Officials also reported that out of the 79.33 kilometers of affected coastlines, 66.43 kilometers had been acceptably cleaned, with only 12.89 kilometers remaining for cleanup.

Meanwhile, the fishing ban continues in three towns in Oriental Mindoro: Pola, Pinamalayan and Naujan. This is due to the risk of contamination from traces of oil that have yet to be removed from these areas.

“May 3 areas na lang na wala pang fishing because the toxic chemicals associated with the oil has stabilized to low levels. Even though low levels na lang siya, we will continue monitoring to make sure na talagang mababa na ang levels sa fish,” Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ Marc Lawrence Romero said during the press briefing.

“In other areas, pinapayagan na ang pangingisda so makakabawi na ang mga kababayan nating mangisda. According to the DOT, normal na ulti ang industriya ng turismo sa Mindoro,” Nepomuceno added.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development, for its part, reported the provision of more than P600 million worth of assistance in the form of family food packs, non-food items, emergency cash transfers, and cash for work to affected communities.

“We have already downloaded P697M worth of subsidies and initiative costs for Regions 4A, 4B and 6. Still, there is an ongoing cash for work, food and non-food items delivery, emergency cash transfer, all of which depend on the advice of the LGUs,” DSWD Assistant Secretary Marlon Alagao noted.

The oil spill has so far left P58.137 million worth of damage and losses to fisheries, affected more than 27,500 fisherfolk, and caused 15 local government units to declare a state of calamity. More than 42,000 families have been affected from over 100 affected areas in Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, Antique and Batangas.


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