Coast Guard belatedly asserts tanker in Oriental Mindoro oil spill had permit

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Coast Guard shared Tuesday night on social media a document showing that MT Princess Empress — the tanker that sank off Oriental Mindoro and caused an oil spill threatening ecosystems and communities in southern Luzon — had a permit to operate, contrary to a finding by the Maritime Industry Authority presented at a Senate hearing earlier in the day.

The document — a November 16, 2022 decision by the Marina to allow the amendment of the certificate of public convenience of the owner of MT Princess Empress to include the tanker in its fleet — was posted online hours after the Senate environment panel’s inquiry into the oil spill, during which the PCG did not present or make reference to it. A CPC is a permit that Marina issues for ships for public use.

RDC Reield Marine Services, which owns MT Princess Empress, said during the Senate inquiry that they only applied for the amendment in November 2022 and submitted additional requirements in the following month.

Marina said during the Senate inquiry that MT Princess Empress had no permit and should not have been allowed to sail in the first place, confirming a report from the agency read out by Sens. Cynthia Villar and Risa Hontiveros.

Marina administrator Hernani Fabia said that RDC Reield Marine Services lacked documents to amend its CPC to include MT Princess Empress. The tanker is leaking oil that has affected over 108,000 people in 118 barangays in Oriental Mindoro and Palawan, according to the Office of Civil Defense.

The motor tanker was able to sail nine times — all while, according to Marina, lacking a permit — before it sank in the waters off Naujan town in Oriental Mindoro on February 28, RDC vice president Fritzie Tee told the committee.

PCG said during the hearing that it is investigating why its personnel did not board the tanker for inspection and why they did not check if it had complete documents.

According to the OCD, the oil spill has affected 68 areas, while 122 people have either been injured or have fallen ill because of the incident. It added that 13,588 fishermen were also affected.




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