Falsification of documents raps filed over oil tanker that sank off Oriental Mindoro

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Falsification of documents raps filed over oil tanker that sank off Oriental Mindoro
This handout photo taken on March 7, 2023 and released by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) shows volunteers collecting debris covered with oil along the coastline in the village of Semirara, Caluya town, days after an oil spill from a sunken tanker off Mindoro island reached the island of Caluya.
Philippine Coast Guard via AFP

MANILA, Philippines — Complaints have finally been filed against the owner of a tanker that sank in waters off Oriental Mindoro more than three months since it began leaking oil into the fragile marine ecosystem in February. 

The National Bureau of Investigation Environmental Crime Division has filed falsification of public documents and perjury complaints against officials of RDC Reield Marine Services—the company that owns the sunken tanker, crew members of MT Princess Empress, Philippine Coast Guard members and officers of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).

Pola Mayor Jennifer Cruz is also a complainant, Justice Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano said in a streamed press conference.

The filing comes more than three months after MT Princess Empress sank in rough seas on February 28. The oil spill from the tanker has since affected more than 194,000 people in southern Luzon and Western Visayas and threatening the area’s rich marine life.

Clavano said the complaint was filed only now since government efforts were initially focused on clean-up. The DOJ is also building complaints over environmental crimes as well as graft and corruption that may be filed in coming weeks. 

Falsified documents

Clavano said that one of the complaints filed alleges multiple counts of falsification by private individuals. This was filed against seven incorporators and directors of RDC Reield Marine Services, six crew members of MT Princess Empress and 19 coast guard personnel of different ranks.

In this specific complaint, the document falsified is the Certificate of Public Convenience, which is a permit that the MARINA issues to ships for public use.

RDC Reield directors “are presumed” to have falsified the ship's CPC as they possess one and have used and benefited from it, Clavano said.

READ: MARINA insists it did not issue permit to sail for MT Princess Empress

The captains of the vessels meanwhile have been named as respondents since they were identified as general agents, while PCG members are included in the complaint as they are tasked with conducting pre-departure inspection of vessels, which includes verifying if CPC is valid.

A second complaint of multiple counts of falsification of public or official documents under Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code was also filed against two MARINA officers and two company officials. They are accused of conspiring to illegally register MT Princess Empress with falsified documents, the DOJ spokesperson said.

In this complaint, the document cited are the construction certification, tonnage measurement certificate, certificate of ownership and certificate of Philippine registry.

A perjury rap was also filed against two company officials of RDC Reield Marine Services over supporting documents used for the tonnage measurement certificate.

Clavano, in the streamed briefing, said that there are 22 attachments to the complaint. “They were all to the effect that several of the supporting documents were either perjured or falsified just to make the ship look as if it was brand new,” he added.

He explained that complaints include affidavits from the ship owner and, to contradict his statements, there are also sworn statements by some of the crew who had firsthand knowledge of the condition of MT Princess.

MARINA earlier said that the oil tanker did not have a permit to sail in the first place but the coast guard allowed MT Princess Empress to leave the port anyway.

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