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Advocates call for urgent protection for VIP as new oil spill hits the marine corridor

Protect VIP, a coalition advocating for the protection of the Verde Island Passage (VIP), called for the urgent need for protection under Extended National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act for biodiversity hotspot VIP as new oil spill hit Pola, Oriental Mindoro, a year after the massive oil spill caused by the sunken MT Princess Empress tanker.


“It is disheartening to see that the VIP is still yet to recover from the Mindoro oil spill last year, and now, another oil spill looms over its previous ground zero in Pola. We worry that this new oil spill would add up to the already existing damages in the VIP, and while that in itself is alarming, our greatest concern is the potential oil spills in the future if the VIP remains to be left unprotected,” said Father Edwin Gariguez, lead convenor of Protect VIP.


“Last year’s oil spill was the Marcos administration’s first environmental disaster and we should already learn the lesson that stronger protection for the VIP is needed. We urge the Marcos administration and the DENR to declare the VIP as a protected area under the ENIPAS Act to be a starting point, to prevent more oil spills and other ecological disasters in the future,” Gariguez added.


The oil spill was reported last Tuesday on Barangays Buhay na Tubig and Bacawan in Pola, as well as in Pinamalayan. Ivan Andres, Deputy Head of Research and Policy of think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) said that this endangers the protected areas in the VIP which were already damaged by last year’s oil spill.


“The oil spill poses threat to vulnerable areas in the VIP, as the stricken barangays of Bahay na Tubig and Bacawan are homes to a mangrove sanctuary and a Marine Protected Area (MPA), respectively. We have already witnessed the deteriorating water quality in the VIP’s MPAs since the Ranzo Fish Sanctuary in Bacawan was reported to fail the water quality guidelines set by DENR. Given that no rehabilitation plans are pushing through for the affected MPAs, this new oil spill worsening the damages is alarming for the marine life in the VIP. Strict investigation and urgent action are needed to identify the cause and ensure immediate containment of the spill, alongside proper assessment of the damages,” said Andres.


Aldrin Villanueva, fisherfolk leader and president of Koalisyon ng mga Mangingisda Apektado ng Oil Spill (KMAOS), states his worries for the new oil spill when their livelihood still has not returned to normalcy yet.


“Nangangamba kami na baka bumalik kami sa dati naming buhay noong lumubog ang MT Princess Empress. Hindi pa kami nakaka-ahon sa oil spill na dinulot ng lumubog na barko dahil hindi pa rin naman talaga bumabalik sa normal ang huli ng isda at hindi pa rin kami nabibigyan ng sapat na kompensasyon. Nakakatakot dahil baka ang panibagong oil spill na ito ay magpahirap pa lalo sa amin,” said Villanueva.


Protect VIP urged the government to prioritize the protection of the VIP and all marine and coastal biodiversity to help communities strengthen their resilience from worsening environmental degradation and economic burdens.


“Fisherfolk communities in the VIP will continue to be wary of their income being robbed by potential oil spills in the future. How many more oil spills must we endure before the DENR, the government, finally take action to protect the VIP?,” Gariguez added.

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