US experts arrive in Oriental Mindoro to aid PCG in oil spill response

US experts arrive in Oriental Mindoro to aid PCG in oil spill response
This handout photo taken on March 8, 2023 and released by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) shows coast guard personnel deploying an oil spill boom off Naujan in Oriental Mindoro province, days after an oil spill from a sunken tanker.
Handout / Philippine Coast Guard / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — Experts from the United States government have arrived in Pola in Oriental Mindoro in response to the Philippine government’s request for assistance in managing the oil spill threatening the region. 

According to a statement from the US Embassy, the team of eight consists of five members of the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) National Strike Force, two from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and one US Navy Supervisor of Salvaging and Diving. 

“Through our incident management professionals’ wealth of experience and strong expertise in oil spill response, we will assist the Philippine Coast Guard in developing safe and efficient methods to contain and recover the oil and minimize damage to the environment,” Commander Stacey Crecey, commanding officer of the USCG Pacific Strike Team, said. 

MT Princess Empress sank in waters off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro in the early hours of February 28, carrying 800,000 liters of industrial oil. Oriental Mindoro Gov. Humerlito Dolor said a Japanese remotely operated vehicle (ROV) already spotted the sunken tanker on Tuesday, weeks after it sank.

In a situational report on Monday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council said the oil spill has already affected 151,463 individuals and 13,654 farmers/fisherfolks. The report also noted 189 individuals have experienced illnesses, such as dizziness, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. 

The US Agency for International Development has worked with the World Food Program to help the Department of Social Welfare and Development deliver 20,000 food packs to affected families. Aside from this, the NDRRMC said at least P75.306-million worth of assistance through financial aid and family food packs, among others, have been distributed to affected locals so far. 

US experts received a briefing on Monday from the PCG and members of the Japan Disaster Relief Expert Team to learn more about how the situation has been handled so far. 

The USCG is tasked to help figure out effective clean-up operations, while the NOAA will be working with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on environmental assessments and figure out ways to move forward with ecosystem restoration.

The NOAA previously helped out the PCG and the University of the Philippines - Marine Sciences Institute for its assessment efforts and scientific modelling to forecast the trajectory of the spill, respectively.

Meanwhile, the US Navy will look into how else to support the possible deployment of an ROV. – Kaycee Valmonte

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