Climate and Environment

Mindoro oil spill damage valued at P41.2B — report

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Mindoro oil spill damage valued at P41.2B � report
Shown here is a photo taken during President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s recent aerial inspection of the oil spill which occurred nearby Oriental Mindoro
Released/Presidential Communications Office

MANILA, Philippines — The sinking of oil tanker MT Princess Empress in Oriental Mindoro last year caused at least P41.2 billion worth of damage to the environment and coastal communities, according to a report by a sustainability think tank.

MT Princess Empress was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it sank off Naujan town on Feb. 28, 2023, causing a massive oil spill that reached the coasts of provinces around the resource-rich Verde Island Passage (VIP).

The report of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) released Monday estimated that the oil spill's environmental damage amounted to around P40.1 billion.

Meanwhile, socio-economic losses totaled P1.1 billion. 

The total cost of damage was 800% higher than the government's estimate, according to CEED.

"Catastrophic oil spills like the one in the Verde Island Passage (VIP) are deadly, costly, and can forever change sensitive ecosystems," CEED executive director Gerry Arances said. 

"The oil spill has also impoverished the people not just of Mindoro but other surrounding communities that depend on the resources of VIP for their survival," he added.


The study looked into the oil spill's damage 39 weeks after it happened.

It used two methods to estimate the impact: how much coastal families in several Oriental Mindoro towns lost because of the incident, and how much people are willing to pay to fishing areas and applied it to those who do not live near the coast in the affected provinces.  

According to the study, fishers continued to suffer income losses from July to November even after the lifting of the fishing ban.

It cited reports indicating that fishers' yields had not returned to their usual pre-oil spill levels, with only around a third of their normal catch being obtained.

Arances called on the government to produce a comprehensive study detailing the full extent of the oil spill's impact on the environment and livelihood to address the immediate and long-term needs of affected residents. 

Protection for VIP

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, lead convenor of Protect VIP, pointed out that the marine corridor "will never be safe" as long as it is not legally protected under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System. 

Verde Island Passage, dubbed by scientists as the "center of the center" of the world's marine biodiversity, faces threats from pollution from liquefied natural gas plants and terminals, illegal and unreported fishing, commercial shipping, and climate change.

"One year is ample time for meaningful progress towards protecting the VIP and ensuring its preservation for future generations, time which the government did not use properly," Gariguez said.
Environment officials said last year that the agency was pushing for the declaration of VIP as a legally protected seascape.

A separate report by CEED found out that oil and grease levels remained high in several protected areas in Oriental Mindoro nearly a year after the oil spill.

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