By Jennifer P. Rendon and John Noel E. Herrera
The prevailing drift scenario would likely spare Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan from the oil that is leaking from an oil tanker that sank near Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.
Nonetheless, the local government of Malay announced on Monday, March 7, that it is on heightened following the oil spill incident.
In an official statement, “the Local Government Unit of Malay, in coordination with its Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils as well as the Philippine Coast Guard is conducting continuous monitoring of our coastal areas.”
Based on prevailing wind direction, the Malay LGU said it has identified the nearest susceptible areas.
“We have pre-positioned oil spill booms to these areas as our primary defense. The LGU is also preparing oil containment defense out of indigenous materials for our secondary defense. Despite the low probability of the oil spill reaching our shores, we cannot be complacent,” the statement added.
The local government said that preparations are also underway relative to the incident.
“We are coordinating with other government agencies while preparing for the worst-case scenario,” it added.
In a press conference Monday afternoon, the Coast Guard District-Western Visayas (CGDWV) said that there is no sighting of a possible oil spill, or even oil sheen, near Boracay Island or in other parts of Malay town.
Even mainland Panay is also spared from the possibility of getting affected, based on the current drift scenario.
But Commander Jansen Benjamin, CGDWV public information officer, said that it might alter if there is a change in the wind and water current direction.
“We can’t control weather conditions. For now, we can safely say that the northeasterly monsoon will affect Caluya town in Antique and, possibly, nearby islets,” he said.
But Benjamin said they are closely monitoring Boracay Island.
“We are coordinating with shipping companies to report if they see any oil drifting towards the island,” he said.
Once their monitoring would show that the island would be at risk, they would immediately set up oil spill booms to deviate the oil spill so that it won’t affect the white beach of Boracay.
Meanwhile, the Sangguniang Bayan of Caluya town in Antique declared a state of calamity due to the February 28 oil spill near Oriental Mindoro.
The declaration was passed during the SB’s special session on March 6. The SB said the spill could cause widespread environmental and public health hazards.
The declaration also called for intervention from national agencies to stem the damage to the environment and public health.
Meanwhile, the Department of Tourism (DOT)-6 on Monday advised all tourists to avoid any water activities in areas in Caluya town identified to be affected by the oil spill, which includes Sitio Liwagao, Brgy. Sibolo; Sitio Sabang, Brgy. Tinogboc; and Sitio Tambak, Brgy. Semirara.
DOT-6 also recommended tourists on Boracay Island, especially in Brgy. Yapak to “take precautionary measures, and provide updates if there are sightings of or indicator that the oil spill has reached the area.”
“We are reminding our LGUs and Tourism Establishments in the identified areas to provide assistance to affected tourists and ensure their health and safety,” it added.
The oil spill, on the other hand, has already affected 426 families or 1,946 individuals in Caluya, Antique as of March 6, 2023.
Data from PCG-6 indicated that 373 affected individuals or 68 families were from Sitio Sabang, Brgy Tinogboc; 736 individuals or 147 families from Sitio Liwagao, Brgy. Sibolo, and 837 individuals or 211 families were from Brgy. Semirara.
PCG-6 added that around 4,000 liters of oil had already spread in the affected areas, as they had already started manual scooping of oil and were able to collect around 1,800 liters as of March 5.
Meanwhile, UP Visayas Chancellor Clement C. Camposano constituted a task force to respond to the oil spill that happened in Tablas Strait last Feb.28, 2023, after the motor tanker Princess Empress, carrying 800,000 liters of oil, sank.
As part of UPV’s commitment to be of service to the nation by contributing its expertise for technical advisory services, damage assessment, environmental analysis, disaster mitigation for conservation and protection of our country’s precious marine resources and coastal communities, the tasks of the committee are to:
1) plan, propose and develop UPV’s response to the incident;
2) submit proposals for funding to UPV and external agencies;
3) coordinate with LGUs and other agencies in the assessment of damage to habitats, socio-economic impacts and other important concerns;
4) prepare and present results of said assessment and findings to the external public and other agencies as the need arises; and
5) assist, coordinate, and provide technical advice to LGUs and other agencies.
The task force is headed by UPV oil spill expert Prof. Resurreccion Sadaba, PhD and co-chaired by Prof. Alice Joan G. Ferrer, PhD, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
The task force is divided into three major teams: the Biophysical Team, Socio-Economic and Health Team, and the Communications and Coordination Team.
The Biophysical Team is composed of Prof. Sadaba, Prof. Wilfredo Campos, Prof. Encarnacion Emilia Yap, Prof. Mae Grace Nillos, Prof. Harold Monteclaro, Assoc. Prof. Marie Frances Nievales, Assoc. Prof. Victor Marco Emmanuel Ferriols, Assoc. Prof. Ramer Bautista, Assoc. Prof. Sheila Mae Santander-de Leon, Assoc. Prof. Karen Villarta-Lane, Asst. Prof. Cristy Acabado, Asst. Prof. Jonalyn Mateo, Mr. Alan Dino Moscoso, and Ms. Anne Brigette Ledesma.
The Socio-Economic and Health Team is made up of Prof. Ferrer, Prof. Gay Defiesta, Assoc. Prof. Cheryl Joy Fernandez-Abila, Assoc. Prof. Reynold Tan, Asst. Prof. Serafin Malecosio, and Asst. Prof. Adrienne Marrie Bugayong-Janagap.
Meanwhile, the Communications and Coordination Team is composed of Ms. Gerthrode Charlotte Tan-Mabilog, Ms. Anna Razel Ramirez, and Asst. Prof. Jonevee Amparo.
To help the island communities of the Municipality of Caluya, Antique that are affected by the oil spill, the task force released its first bulletin today, 06 March, titled Guidelines for Clean-up Workers thru the Cash-for-Work.
The task force will continue to release bulletins to create awareness and closely coordinate with point persons in the affected island communities to assist in their needs. (With a report from Joseph B.A. Marzan)