Study: 90% of Mindoreños hit by oil spill struggling to meet family needs

More than 90 percent of Mindoreños affected by the oil spill “do not earn enough to meet their family’s needs”, while almost 100 percent reported that the aid they received was “insufficient”, a study released Wednesday by an environmental coalition showed.

Residents say that the oil spill and fishing ban have had a severe impact on their livelihoods, worse than the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the study conducted by the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment from April 1 to 3. The spill has made it impossible for them to catch fish, which is their primary source of food and income.

“On top of environmental issues, residents are having to deal with little to no income these past few weeks, causing trickle-down effects on their health and education,” said Jordan Fronda, research coordinator of Center for Environmental Concerns Philippines (CEC), a member of the coalition.

“The impacts of the oil spill and fishing ban are also long-term, so it is not enough to just give one-time assistance,” said Fronda.

The MT Princess Empress was carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it 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.

A fishing ban has been imposed in the towns of Naujan, Pola, Pinamalayan, Bansud, Gloria, Roxas, Mansalay, Bongabong, and Bulalacao in Oriental Mindoro due to the presence of oil and grease in water samples.

According to the report, most residents have received aid over the past few weeks, but the ayuda packs mainly came in the form of food, while other needs such as hygiene supplies for infants or money for allowances and transportation for children going to school were not addressed.

In terms of health, Pola reported higher oil exposure at 87.5 percent and 55 percent in Calapan. Almost half reported direct skin contact.

Even the education of children is being affected. In Calapan, some parents are only able to send their children to school two to three times a week.

“The scale of the impacts are immense, which really shows the need for immediate and more comprehensive action responding to the needs of the people. Civil society is doing what we can but this is not enough,” said Berto Alinea of Serve the People Corps – Southern Tagalog (STPC).

“We need the national government to improve and hasten its response, especially in terms of addressing the socio-economic impacts. We enjoin the Mindoreños in seeking accountability to RDC Reield Marine Services for the grave ecological and environmental impacts caused by the oil spill,” he said.

Alongside community members, they called for an immediate resolution to the oil spill and urgent, sufficient, and sustained relief efforts from the national government.

The three-day study, which covered 400 respondents across six barangays in Calapan City and Pola, was conducted by CEC, STPC, Brigada Kalikasan, and AGHAM Advocates for Science and Technology for the People.

To mitigate the impact of the oil spill, the coalition recommends the following:

  • Continuous and sufficient assistance for everyone
  • Medical assistance for those affected, such as medicine, check-ups, and mental health support
  • Increase alternative livelihood opportunities (Ensure sufficient compensation, especially for hazardous jobs)
  • Prompt and timely reporting/feedback of fish and water analysis (To quickly update local policies such as fishing ban).

MORE: DSWD counters study findings: ‘Sufficient’ aid given to Mindoro oil spill victims

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