Philippine oil spill caused by ship without a permit

Ditas Lopez, Bloomberg March 14, 2023

(Bloomberg) – The Philippines is grappling with the fallout of an oil spill south of Manila, with a contractor describing the cleanup as a “logistical nightmare” amid questions on why the ship carrying industrial fuel was able to sail without a permit.

The cleanup will likely take three to four months, with fuel quickly spreading to hard-to-reach areas, Ricardo Rodrigo Bella, Vice President at Philippine-listed Harbor Star Shipping Services Inc., said in a phone interview on Monday. The company must wait for inputs from several local governments and agencies before it can start work, he said.

“The trajectory is really big,” Bella said. “There’s still a threat of more oil spill.”

The Princess Empress tanker, which was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel when it sank off Mindoro province, didn’t have the permit to sail, the nation’s maritime authority said at a Senate hearing Tuesday.

“This ship shouldn’t have been allowed to sail. We have to find out why it was able to do so,” Senator Risa Hontiveros said during the inquiry.

The oil spill has affected more than 108,000 individuals, including some 13,500 fisherfolk and over a hundred reporting dizziness and vomiting, according to the nation’s disaster management office. It has turned swathes of nearby shoreline black and led authorities to declare a state of calamity in affected areas in Mindoro province. The Philippine Coast Guard is also working with Japan to address the oil spill.

Unlike previous oil spill incidents in the Southeast Asian nation where the slick was concentrated in one area, the latest one had spread to other islands and there may be areas that would be hard to reach and require technical expertise, Bella said. From Mindoro, the oil had reached other provinces including coal-rich Antique and the northern part of beach paradise Palawan. The presence of mangroves on tidal areas may also need a different approach, he said.

At the same time, work has been limited to four hours a day, as recommended by the Department of Health, to shield workers from potential harm from oil exposure, Bella added. The Philippine-listed company was hired to work with French firm Le Floch Depollution in the shoreline cleanup and oil waste disposal, he said.

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