Oil spill damage, losses nearing P1 billion

Helen Flores, Romina Cabrera - The Philippine Star
Oil spill damage, losses nearing P1 billion
A Coast Guard vessel is positioned near an oil slick (above) as seen by President Marcos during an aerial inspection of the damage caused by a submerged oil tanker in Oriental Mindoro yesterday. Lower photo shows a resident wearing a protective suit taking part in a cleanup on the coast of Pola municipality.
Krizjohn Rosales

Marcos Jr. gives aid to Mindoro residents

MANILA, Philippines — Damage to the fishery industry and income loss from the massive oil spill in Oriental Mindoro has neared P1 billion almost two months after the February sinking of tanker MT Princess Empress off Naujuan town in the province, data from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) showed.

Based on BFAR data, losses alone in terms of inputs and produce, fishing gear and paraphernalia, as well as facilities and equipment, have reached P445 million.

These included fisheries production losses incurred by the Mimaropa Commercial and Municipal Fisheries valued at P14.1 million and some P3 million damage to 119 metric tons of seaweed production in Western Visayas.

BFAR earlier noted that income losses of fisherfolk directly affected by the oil spill have reached P441 million in 22 fishing days.

The 26,719 registered fisherfolk affected by the oil spill are each reportedly losing P714 daily or a P20 million every day.

Anticipating the ongoing oil spill cleanup to take longer, President Marcos instructed yesterday government agencies to look for alternative livelihood for displaced communities.

Marcos gave the directive after a situation briefing with local officials in Pola, Oriental Mindoro town after conducting an aerial inspection of the areas affected by the oil spill. The sunken tanker was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel.

BFAR said it has undertaken measures to assist affected fisherfolk, including allotting P1.5 million for food assistance and P580,500 for displaced fishing groups.

It has also deployed P720,945 worth of cleanup assistance for coastal communities.

Meanwhile, fishing and tourism activities may be banned in Puerto Galera, a popular tourist destination, after it failed four consecutive water quality tests.

Oriental Mindoro Gov. Humerlito Dolor has asked the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to come up with a policy pronouncement following the latest results. Dolor said that the latest results were received Friday night.

“Before any declaration of fishing ban or tourism activities, let’s discuss the four consecutive quality tests now that results have come out. We ask DENR and DOH to come up with an official position on what’s next now that Puerto Galera has four consecutive quality tests that failed,” he said in a interview.

He noted that the failed results could mean findings of oil and grease even before the Holy Week break.

Drinking water in 15 barangays in Estrella and Pola failed the quality test, prompting authorities to ration water.

Alternative sites

Meanwhile, President Marcos directed Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos to schedule a dialogue with local officials of four fishing sites within the Calabarzon and Mimaropa regions to discuss opening the sites to affected fishermen.

The four alternative fishing sites in the two regions include Mindoro Strait in Mindoro Oriental, Cuyo Pass in Batangas, Tablas Strait in Romblon and Tayabas Bay in Quezon.

“But the critical thing now is that people still don’t have a job, that’s what we prioritize, to have a livelihood,” Marcos told reporters.

“We are trying to find alternative livelihood for them until they can go back to their old fishing grounds,” he said.

Marcos, in a speech during the distribution of various government assistance in Pola, expressed satisfaction over the government’s response to the oil spill but admitted the job would take a long time to finish.

“But maybe it will take a long time. So, what we do is we need to give the people jobs,” he said.

The President also distributed fishing boats, fish smoking machines and relief packs to the residents of Pola.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has so far distributed P98.6 million worth of food packs to families affected by the oil spill in the province.

The DSWD is also carrying out a cash-for-work program in the government cleanup operations in coordination with the DENR.

There are more than 25,000 families in 14 towns that are engaged in the program, with a total budget allocation of P190.1 million, according to the DSWD.

BFAR data showed more than 26,000 fisherfolk directly affected by the oil spill.

In an interview early last month, Marcos said the government aims to finish the oil spill cleanup in less than four months.

“Because during the Guimaras oil spill, it took four months before the cleanup was completed. Maybe this time, because the oil spill is a little less, we can speed it up. Even if not in a month, maybe it won’t last four months,” Marcos said, referring to the oil spill from M/T Solar I, which capsized off Guimaras Island in 2006 while transporting more than two million liters of bunker fuel.

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