Oriental Mindoro’s 18,000 strong fishermen were ordered to put on hold their usual fishing routine as the oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress had spread to the province’s southern towns.
Before the February 28, MT Princess Empress sinking, fishermen were expecting better days at the sea. The incident dashed their hopes for a bigger catch as the sunken affected their area due to leaked industrial oil oof the coast of Oriental Mindoro.
Before the fishing ban, fishermen in the area could earn up to P500 a day.
Pola, Oriental Mindoro Mayor Jennifer Cruz told the media that around 5,000 residents, mostly from coastal communities, are affected by the oil spill.
Jennifer Jaqueca, a resident of Brgy. Batuhan said that “While there were restrictions, we were able to make a living during the pandemic. Unlike now, we’re banned from fishing because of the oil spill. What will happen to us?”
She claimed that residents of their coastal community were not prioritized in the labor department’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/ Displaced Worker (TUPAD). It is a community-based package of assistance that provides emergency employment. In the case of Pola folk, TUPAD workers will help in the clean-up of slick from the oil spill.
“I hope that we’ll be prioritized for the program because we’re the ones who are struggling the most. Those living in the mountains can harvest vegetables. What about us? We have no other resources here other than those in the sea,” Jaqueca said.
However, Mayor Cruz said that they are not yet giving out TUPAD.
According to Cruz, only the local government, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the provincial government have provided food packs and drinking water supplies to those who are living in affected areas.
On Monday, the provincial government declared all coastal barangays in Naujan, Pola, Pinamalayan, Gloria, Bansud, Bongabong, Roxas, Mansalay and Bulalacao.
The declaration of a state of calamity imposes price caps on basic necessities and prime commodities, and requires agencies to monitor and stop overpricing, profiteering and hoarding of food, medicines and fuel.
Authorities are scrambling to contain the spill to prevent environmental damage and harm to humans.
According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the MT Princess Empress is thought to be lying at about 1,200 feet or 400 meters below sea level. A remotely-operated vehicle will be deployed to determine the exact location of the sunken tanker.
Meanwhile, fishers’ group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) appeals for Immediate economic subsidies for oil spill-affected fishing families.
The fishers’ group said that it is closely coordinating with its chapter in affected areas for the damage and impacts assessment of oil spill to marine resources and coastal communities. Once the report is consolidated, PAMALAKAYA will reach out to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to seek concrete rehabilitation for the affected livelihoods and damaged resources.
Lastly, PAMALAKAYA said the owner of the MT Princess Empress should be demanded compensatory damages and shoulder the cleanup costs of the massive oil spill.