THE United States Coast Guard and some of its air assets will arrive in the Philippines to help in the ongoing clean-up operations on the massive oil spill in Mindoro, Department of National Defense Senior Undersecretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr. said on Sunday.
In a statement issued following his report to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., Galvez said they will be expecting in the following days the arrival in the country of the entire US Coast Guard and another C-5, the US Air Force’s largest and strategic airlifter.
“We are looking forward to the arrival of the entire US Coast Guard contingent for the additional technical support in our disaster response operations. Although, one US C-17 with equipment (60K loader) already arrived this morning and is now at Subic Air Base; another C-5 is expected to arrive tomorrow,” the Defense chief said.
Galvez, who is also chair of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), along with the Office of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Undersecretary Ariel F. Nepomuceno and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Chief Admiral Artemio M. Abu and other Armed Forces of the Philippines and local government officials, conducted an aerial inspection of the affected areas of the oil spill early Sunday morning.
“We will immediately employ these assets and integrate in our response operations. In addition, we continue to closely monitor the ROV’s (remotely-operated vehicle) operations for significant updates and to further determine the extent of the oil spill,” Galvez said.
The DND official added that the presence of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has greatly helped in the clean-up operations by providing rapid environmental assessments of the affected areas, identification of priority areas at risk of environmental damage, and assessment of the needs for ecosystem restoration.
“They [NOAA] provide support for scientific modeling to estimate the trajectory of the oil spill and satellite imagery to boost assessment efforts,” Galvez said.
The DND senior official also reported that the Japanese ROV found out that the oil tanker, MT Princess Empress, “suffered extensive structural damage after sinking.”
“At this point, no visible consumption fuel leak coming from the damaged vessel. Oil leaks had been observed from all eight compartments (tanks). Some through ballast tanks.Volume of remaining oil inside the compartments cannot be estimated at this point,” Galvez said. “Oil spillage rate from the source is likewise yet to be determined, quoting the findings of the Japanese team.
He added that the situation in the areas in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) and Western Visayas regions affected by the oil spill “is a lot better and very encouraging than I imagined.”
“Our response efforts, particularly the actions of the various government agencies, are present and very effective with the collaboration of all stakeholders, not to mention the assistance of our allies and other partner countries,” Galvez said.
To date, the Marcos administration and non-government organizations have already extended more than P95-million worth of assistance to the residents in the areas affected by the oil spill.
Meanwhile, a total of 10,206 liters of oil waste and oily water, and 72,643 kilos of oil contaminated debris were collected in the shoreline clean-up operations, according to Galvez.
COMPENSATION claims as a result of the sunken MT Princess Empress’s massive oil spill in Tablas Strait could surpass those filed in the aftermath of the 2006 sinking of the MT Solar in Guimaras Strait, Quezon City Rep. Marvin D. Rillo, House tourism committee vice chairman, was quoted in a statement issued last Sunday.
“If we look back at the MT Solar incident, a total of P1.1 billion was paid to settle 26,872 compensation claims, including those filed by owners of beach resorts, tour boat operators, and other tourism service providers hit by the 2006 oil spill,” Rillo said.
Considering that the MT Solar episode happened 17 years ago, the lawmaker said the inflation-adjusted compensation claims with respect to the pollution damage caused by the MT Princess Empress’s oil spill may well exceed P1.1 billion.
“Apart from tourism-related claimants, we expect property owners hit by the oil spill to file compensation claims for damages to beachfront properties, fishing boats, and fishing gear,” Rillo added. “Those who suffered economic losses, including fisherfolk, seaweed farmers, and fishpond operators, are likewise expected to file claims.”
Local governments that had to pay their staff extra in response to the oil spill incident are also expected to file claims, along with clean-up contractors and the PCG, according to Rillo.
Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito A. Dolor and an insurance representative earlier announced the launch of a “Claims Caravan” in Calapan City that will serve as a claims-collection point for those harmed by the MT Princess Empress’s oil spill.
As of March 23, the Oriental Mindoro provincial government had recorded 20,932 fisherfolk, 61 tourism establishments and 750 community-based organizations that are expected to file claims.
The entire province of Oriental Mindoro is now under a state of calamity because of the oil spill, which has also hit coastal areas in Batangas, Antique and Palawan.