The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) have launched a joint investigation into the Mindoro oil spill, collecting waterborne oil samples and residues that could be used as confirmatory evidence in court.
Dr. Hernando Bacosa, an environmental science professor, will serve as the lead expert in the investigation, the PCG said in a statement Monday.
The collaboration between the PCG and DOST aims to improve the investigation through laboratory analysis in oil biomarker fingerprinting, said Vice Admiral Robert Patrimonio, PCG’s Marine Environmental Protection Commander.
Patrimonio said that the investigation aims to confirm the suspected source of oil that reached the coastlines of Oriental Mindoro, Antique, and Palawan.
The MT Princess Empress sank off the coast of Naujan on February 28, causing a massive oil spill. More than 36,000 families have been affected in 163 Barangays in Mimaropa, Calabarzon, and Western Visayas regions.
The insurance for the sunken MT Princess Empress may not cover all the claims related to the oil spill, as the damage is extensive. Compensation for victims is expected to exceed the liability cover provided by Shipowners’ P&I Club, according to the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund.
The PCG said the investigating team conducted oil sampling in offshore and shoreline operations to verify oil weathering characteristics. It said that the collected samples are used to identify the specific bacteria present in the environment, culture local superior oil-degrading bacteria, and monitor the fate of oil to provide clues for future oil spill events under Philippine conditions.
Bacosa sought the assistance of the Mindanao State University (MSU) to run appropriate tests and look through proper methods, such as the American Society for Testing and Materials method and Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry. These methods are for the determination of waterborne oil samples and oil residues that could be used as confirmatory evidence admissible in court and following internationally accepted standards.
The PCG’s Marine Environmental Protection Command also sent oil samples to laboratories in Japan and France for oil fingerprinting on April 4.