Senator Cynthia Villar has called for government assistance to the 22,000 families affected by the oil spill caused by the sinking of MT Empress Princess off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.
Presiding the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change hearing, Villar expressed concern that the oil spill will surpass the devastation caused by the 2006 Guimaras oil spill, considered as the worst oil spill in the country’s history.
Asec. Bernardo Alejandro, spokesman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said the oil spill has already affected 70 areas in the region, with 122 persons reported to have been ill due to the incident. Around 22,000 families were also affected in 118 barangays in Oriental Mindoro and Palawan, including 13,588 fisherfolk in Oriental Mindoro.
Villar emphasized that the Oriental Mindoro oil spill will adversely affect the marine ecosystem and biodiversity, fisheries and food supply, livelihood of the people, especially the fisher folks, health of the people, and the tourism industry in the affected areas.
She also pointed out that the oil spill threatens around 21 locally-managed marine protected areas, including the Verde Island Passage, which is poised to become a legislated protected area as “the center of the global-shore fish biodiversity.”
The MT Empress Princess was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it sank on February 28 off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, as a result of engine trouble caused by rough sea conditions.
Together with Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, Villar asked government agencies to report to the committee the cost of assistance and activities so far provided, as well as the needed resources to continue their operations in affected areas.
“As the people are still inching towards recovery from the pandemic, it appears unwarranted for the residents of the provinces and municipalities in Mimaropa and Region 6 affected to be subjected to additional hardships because of the oil spill,” Villar said.
The committee urged the government to provide immediate assistance to affected residents and intensify their efforts in oil spill containment and cleanup.
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