By Glazyl Y. Masculino
Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) District Western Visayas went on emergency footing Friday, March 3, to discuss and prepare its response to the possible effects of an oil spill on the communities in Antique province in Panay island.
Commander Jansen Benjamin, operations officer and public information officer of PCG District Western Visayas, said Friday that they received report of the undetermined quantity of oil in Semirara Island in Caluya, Antique that reportedly leaked from the ill-fated M/T Princess Empress.
The oil tanker loaded with 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil sank in Balingawan Point off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro on Feb. 28. Its 20 crew members were rescued.
In response, Benjamin said that 15 personnel under the PCG’s Marine Environmental Protection Unit were dispatched Friday night to Libertad town in Antique, along with oil spill mitigation assets.
Libertad town is the closest point of Panay island to Semirara island, Benjamin said.
If the weather permits, the personnel will load the equipment to their floating assets from Libertad town to Semirara island, he added.
Benjamin said that these personnel were trained to combat oil spills. They will try the mechanical recovery or oil skimmer to address the situation.
Mechanical recovery means that personnel will manually scoop the oil, while an oil skimmer is a device that is designed to remove oil floating on a liquid surface from oil spills, according to Benjamin.
Benjamin said Antique is about 68 to 70 nautical miles (125-129 kilometers) from the area where the oil tanker sank.
When asked about the possibility that it may also affect other neighboring communities, Benjamin said the possibility is very remote, considering that the wind direction is going towards northeast.
It is also very remote that the spill will reach Boracay island as it is situated on the eastern side.
But he said that they do not discount the possibility of the impact of the oil spill in other areas, since it has already reached Semirara island in three days.
He said they have no idea about the extent of the oil spill in Antique.
He said that the PCG is also tapping the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO), and the DRRMO of Antique.
Meanwhile, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has ordered the creation of a task force to monitor the impact of the oil spill.