Environmental activist Father Edwin Gariguez has expressed dismay over the silence of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) President and CEO Ramon Ang regarding the company’s involvement in supplying 900,000 liters of industrial oil to the ill-fated MT Princess Empress.
In a statement, Gariguez, the Lead Convenor of the Protect VIP Network, stressed that the Verde Island Passage, where the tanker spilled its contents, is a vital resource for the livelihood and food supply of two million people. He emphasized that the biodiversity of the strait could feed future generations if properly taken care of, but the recent oil spill puts all of that at risk.
Gariguez called for a complete and honest explanation of the incident, but lamented that the companies involved and government agencies have been giving only evasive answers. He insisted that transparency and accountability are the only ways to pay the debt owed to all the victims and future generations affected by this disaster.
The MT Princess Empress, carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel, was bound for Iloilo when its engine failed due to rough sea conditions. It sank off the coast of Naujan town in Oriental Mindoro on February 28, causing an oil spill that has reached as far as Antique, Palawan and Verde Island in Batangas.
Fisherfolk have been seeking compensation for the damage to their livelihood, saying they are frustrated by the tedious process involved.
Ang later admitted that SMC was one of the clients of RDC Reield Marine Services, the owner of the ill-fated tanker.
“We are one of the clients of that vessel, I don’t want to name the other companies. There are several companies that company is supposed to deliver oil to, not only us,” he said during a media interview after the launch of the Battery Energy Storage System in Limay, Bataan.
The Verde Island Passage or VIP is a channel that cuts through the Philippines by the south of Luzon, right in the center of the Coral Triangle. The strait is a critical marine biodiversity hotspot, renowned for its high concentration of marine species, making it one of the most biodiverse marine habitats on the planet. The VIP is not only home to thousands of species, but it also serves as a vital source of livelihood for millions of Filipinos.
The Protect VIP Network is an alliance of various groups and individuals advocating for the conservation and protection of the Verde Island Passage, a critical marine biodiversity hotspot in the Philippines.