The water quality in Puerto Galera was already poor even before MT Princess Empress sank and caused a massive oil spill off the coast of Oriental Mindoro, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said.
Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones made this disclosure in a press briefing on Tuesday, saying that as a result, Puerto Galera’s poor water quality could not be conclusively attributed to the oil slick.
“Based on data results, ang lugar ng Puerto Galera base sa mga stations ay talagang hindi na rin maganda ang water quality even before the oil spill,” Leones said.
“So iyong sinasabi natin na the data were not conclusive whether the contaminations can be attributed to the oil spill ay dahil ang area na yon even before ay may contamination na,” he said.
The latest test results released by the DENR on April 14 showed that 26 out of 35 sampling sites, or 74.29%, failed the water quality analysis.
Across all 35 water monitoring stations on Puerto Galera’s shorelines, Leones said the oil and grease volume did not consistently increase, with some areas showing improvements while still remaining below the required standards.
This should not have been the case if the oil spill was the cause of the poor water quality, he said.
Leones said the only way to ascertain if the contaminants really originated from the spilled oil of the ill-fated tanker is for the Philippine Coast Guard to conduct a fingerprinting test.
Oil fingerprinting is a process that compares the distinctive chemical signature of an oil sample, which is crucial for legal and regulatory purposes in determining the source of an oil.
But regardless of the origin of the contamination, Leones said it is evident that the water in Puerto Galera did not meet the quality standards.
“What is clear to us is based on our stations, nine lang po ang pumapasa. So whether it came from the vessel or kung saan man sa dumadaong don, ang result pa rin ay talagang bagsak ang karamihan ng ating stations doon,” said the environment official.
Asked if the DENR would recommend a ban on tourism in Puerto Galera, Leones said it is an issue of public health and it “falls outside the purview” of his department.
The Department of Health on Tuesday warned the public to refrain from engaging in occupational and recreational activities in bodies of water that did not meet the required quality and safety standards.
“Hindi na po tayo mag-aantay pa ng patuloy pa na test. Nakakita na po tayo ng accurate results,” DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters.
The MT Princess Empress sank on February 28 off Naujan while carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel, causing a massive oil spill.
DOH: Results of Puerto Galera water quality tests are now final, ‘accurate’
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