Rehabilitation efforts underway as gov’t addresses oil spill

The Philippine government is closely monitoring all drinking water resources and chemical hazards in areas affected by an oil spill off the coast of Oriental Mindoro, the Office of Civil Defense said.

In a statement released on Thursday, the OCD said that the surveillance of drinking water resources and chemical hazards is part of the whole-of-nation approach to address the impact of the oil spill on affected communities in Oriental Mindoro and nearby provinces.

The OCD aims to ensure that the health of residents will not be severely impacted.

The spill, caused by the sinking of MT Princess Empress off Naujan on February 28, has affected a total of 40,733 families in Mimaropa, Calabarzon, and Western Visayas.

The Department of Health (DOH) has also been conducting surveillance of drinking water resources and exposed individuals to chemical hazards, in addition to releasing public health advisories.

The DOH said that health assessments will continue to be conducted on the affected population, and that they will monitor the latest situation, status of response operations, and possible assistance from health department’s central office.

As of May 10, the Philippine Coast Guard said the estimated total length of coastline “acceptably” cleaned was at 84.26 percent, with the remaining length of the affected coastline at 15.74 percent.

The PCG said that it is implementing three phases of operations to clean up the oil spill, which include 1) removal of bulk oil or floating oil, 2) removal of remaining attached oil, and 3) final polishing.

The PCG is also conducting joint shoreline surveys and activities with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR); collaborating with contracted oil waste collectors, other countries, and international parties; and conducting aggressive offshore containment and recovery operations.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reported that it has provided a total of P430.9 million worth of assistance through the distribution of family food packs and non-food items, as well as through its programs such as assistance to individuals in crisis situations, emergency cash transfer, and cash for work.

The DENR reported that a total of PHP517 million worth of early recovery assistance was distributed to 96,256 various beneficiaries in Mimaropa, Calabarzon, and Western Visayas.

The department is also conducting water quality monitoring and waste management activities, and monitored shorelines have improved in terms of water quality, the department reported.

On recovery concerns, the DENR together with concerned agencies will conduct a scientific conference this June to harmonize assessment methods and post-disaster needs assessment, and provide technical information on environmental impact assessment.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reported that fishing bans in Clusters 4 and 5 in Oriental Mindoro have been lifted, as concerned agencies continue to implement response operations and maintain close coordination to ensure a whole-of-nation approach in addressing the impacts of the oil spill.

The Philippine government is committed to providing assistance to the affected families and communities and to ensuring that the environment is restored to its previous condition.

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