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Marcos: Oil spill cleanup to take less than 4 months

PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Wednesday said the government aims to clean up the 800,000-liter oil spill from a tanker that sank in the waters of Oriental Mindoro last week in less than four months.

“It took four months to clean up the Guimaras oil spill,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an Agriculture department event, referring to the 2006 disaster when a motor tanker carrying more than two million liters of bunker fuel sank off the coast of Guimaras island in central Philippines.

“Maybe this time, since the amount of oil is smaller, the cleanup would be faster.”

MT Princess Empress was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it sank off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, one of the five provinces surrounding the Verde Island Passage, one of the world’s most diverse marine habitats.

Marine experts estimate that as many as 20,000 hectares of coral reefs, 9,900 hectares of mangroves and 6,000 hectares of seagrass could have been affected by the spill.

Senators and congressmen have called for separate investigations of the incident, which prompted the Oriental Mindoro province to place nearly 80 coastal villages in nine towns under a state of calamity.

Mr. Marcos said the government had tapped local fishermen who were temporarily banned from sailing to help the government in the cleanup drive.

“We are monitoring the situation closely,” he said, adding that the government is working with the private sector and Japan to address the issue.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said about 11,000 fisherfolk families were affected by the oil spill.

The bureau met with provincial officials on Monday to discuss alternative livelihood for affected fisherfolk, spokesman Nazario C. Briguera told DZBB radio.

The bureau is examining water samples to determine whether fishing is safe, Mr. Briguera said, adding that the oil spill would probably affect Oriental Mindoro’s fishery production.

The province accounts for 3.05% of fishery production of the Mimaropa region, he added. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Sheldeen Joy Talavera

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