Oriental Mindoro oil spill leaves fishers short on cash and food

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Oriental Mindoro oil spill leaves fishers short on cash and food
Residents of Sitio Kabilang Ibayo in Brgy. Batuhan are enraged after queuing for hours in an attempt to get emergency employment.
Philstar.com / EC Toledo IV

POLA, Oriental Mindoro — Idle fishing boats and unused nets line the shore of Pola town following an oil spill last week and a subsequent ban on fishing activities, leaving fishers—who are among the country's poorest sectors—high and dry.

Oriental Mindoro’s 18,000 fishermen were ordered to put their activities on hold as the spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress had spread to the province’s southern towns. 

“It’s a very serious problem because our only livelihood is fishing,” Ramon Palogme, a fisherman from Brgy. Calima, told Philstar.com on Tuesday. 

As the northeast monsoon or amihan neared its end, Palogme was expecting better days at the sea. But on February 28, MT Princess Empress sank off the coast of Oriental Mindoro and leaked industrial oil, dashing his hopes for a bigger catch. 

Before the ban was put in place, Arnold Maniego, a fisherman from Brgy. Batuhan, could earn up to P500 a day. It is not a lot of money, but it is better than nothing. 

“Now, I go to farms to ask for extra vegetables to get by,” he said. 

Pola Mayor Jennifer Cruz told Philstar.com that around 5,000 residents, mostly from coastal communities, are affected by the oil spill. 


“While there were restrictions, we were able to make a living during the pandemic. Unlike now, we’re banned from fishing because of the oil spill. What will happen to us?” said Jennifer Jaqueca, a resident of Brgy. Batuhan.

The disgruntled Jaqueca claimed that residents of their coastal community were not prioritized in the labor department’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/ Displaced Worker (TUPAD). It is a community-based package of assistance that provides emergency employment. In the case of Pola folk, TUPAD workers will help in the clean up of slick from the oil spill. 

“I hope that we’ll be prioritized for the program because we’re the ones who are struggling the most. Those living in the mountains can harvest vegetables. What about us? We have no other resources here other than those in the sea,” Jaqueca said. 

Sought for comment, the town mayor said: “We are not yet giving out TUPAD.” 

According to Cruz, only the local government, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the provincial government have provided food packs and drinking water supplies to those who are living in affected areas. 

The provincial government on Monday declared all coastal barangays in Naujan, Pola, Pinamalayan, Gloria, Bansud, Bongabong, Roxas, Mansalay and Bulalacao. 

The declaration of a state of calamity imposes price caps on basic necessities and prime commodities, and requires agencies to monitor and stop overpricing, profiteering and hoarding of food, medicines and fuel. 

Authorities are scrambling to contain the spill to prevent environmental damage and harm to humans. 

According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the MT Princess Empress is thought to be lying at about 1,200 feet or 400 meters below sea level. A remotely-operated vehicle will be deployed to determine the exact location of the sunken tanker.


Editor's note: The trip to Oriental Mindoro was hosted by Protect VIP Network (represented by Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development). At no stage does the host organization have a say in the stories generated from the coverage, interviews conducted, publication date and story treatment. Content is produced solely by Philstar.com following editorial guidelines.

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