By Azer Parrocha
MANILA – The United States Coast Guard (USCG) and some of its air assets will assist in the ongoing cleanup operations on the massive oil spill in Mindoro.
Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Officer-in-Charge of the Department of National Defense, has already informed President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. that USCG and the US Air Force’s largest strategic airlifter will be arriving in the country in the following days, according to a news release of the Presidential Communications Office on Sunday.
“We are looking forward to the arrival of the entire US Coast Guard contingent for the additional technical support in our disaster response operations. Although one US C-17 with equipment (60K loader) already arrived this morning and is now at Subic Air Base, another C-5 is expected to arrive,” Galvez said.
On Saturday morning, Galvez, also the chair of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, conducted an aerial inspection of the affected areas along with the Office of the Civil Defense Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno, Philippine Coast Guard chief Admiral Artemio Abu, and other Armed Forces and local government officials.
“We will immediately employ these assets and integrate them into our response operations. In addition, we continue to closely monitor the ROV’s (remotely-operated vehicle) operations for significant updates and to further determine the extent of the oil spill,” he added.
Galvez likewise noted that the presence of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has considerably helped in the cleanup operations by providing rapid environmental assessments of the affected areas, identification of priority areas at risk of environmental damage, and assessment of the needs for ecosystem restoration.
“They (NOAA) provide support for scientific modeling to estimate the trajectory of the oil spill and satellite imagery to boost assessment efforts,” Galvez said.
The Japanese ROV found out that the oil tanker, M/T Princess Empress, “suffered extensive structural damage after sinking,” according to Galvez.
Citing findings of the Japanese team, he said there was no visible consumption fuel leak coming from the damaged vessel. Oil leaks were observed from all eight compartments (tanks).
Through ballast tanks, the volume of remaining oil inside the compartments cannot be estimated at this point. The oil spillage rate from the source is likewise yet to be determined.
Galvez also noted that the situation in affected areas in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) and Western Visayas regions have been better and more encouraging so far due to response efforts of various government agencies and collaboration of all stakeholders.
A total of 10,206 liters of oil waste and oily water and 72,643 kilos of oil-contaminated debris have been collected in the shoreline cleanup operations.
To date, the Marcos administration and non-government organizations have already extended more than PHP95 million worth of assistance to the residents in the areas affected by the oil spill.
M/T Princess Empress was loaded with 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it sank off Naujan town on February 28. (PNA)