MEMBERS of the Japanese Coast Guard have arrived in Pola, Oriental Mindoro to assist in the cleanup drive of the oil spill that was brought about by a sunken tanker.

Japanese Embassy Minister for Economic Affairs Nihei Daisuke said two teams composed of 11 experts will conduct a site visit and assessment in the oil spill-affected areas on Monday, March 13, with the coordination of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu said more experts from various countries have expressed their intention to help contain the oil spill.

The spill was detected within a 70-kilometer radius from where the MT Princess Empress sank on February 28. The tanker was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil.

“Magtutulung-tulong po tayo. This is not just about the effort of the Coast Guard but this is a whole-of-government approach. Ang approach po natin, tulong-tulong po tayo, nandiyan na po ang mga iba’t ibang ahensya ng pamahalaan – ang DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), even DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), the LGUs (local government units), the academe. Kasi kailangan po ang approach natin sa problemang ito ay scientific, it has to be science-based, hindi pwede na basta-basta na lang tayo mag-conduct or mag-apply whatever chemicals to be introduced to the environment,” Abu said in a press conference.

(Let’s work together. This is not just the effort of the Coast Guard but it is a whole-of-government approach. Various government agencies are already helping such as the DENR, even the DSWD, the LGUs, and the academe. This is because our approach to this problem should be scientific, it has to be science-based. We can’t just conduct or apply whatever chemicals we want to introduce to the environment.)

“In our oil spill contingency plan sa Coast Guard, mayroon po kaming National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCoP). So diyan po nagdi-declare kami ng level or tier: Tier one, maliit lang na kayang gampanan ng company; tier two, Coast Guard wide ang hahawak; and tier three, international na. Kapag more than one million na ang volume ng oil na involved sa spill ay i-elevate po natin sa tier three. And this is one is less than one million, so right now nasa tier two pa po tayo — so, coast guard pa po ang nag-o-oversee ng operations ng oil spill response operations ng government,” he added.

(We have a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan in the Coast Guard that can declare a level or tier: Tier one, which can be handled by the company alone; Tier two, which is handled by the Coast Guard; and tier three, which is an international response. If the volume of oil involved in the spill is more than one million, we will elevate it to tier three. And since this one is less than a million, we are still at tier two, so the Coast Guard is overseeing the oil spill response operations of the government.)

To protect the shorelines, Abu said they have called on the LGUs and all units of the PCG to put in place safety nets and contingencies to shield the projected areas that would be affected by the oil spill.

The government is also extending help to affected residents as they distribute relief goods and food packs.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. earlier said that he hopes that the oil spill would be contained within four months. (SunStar Philippines)