Fisherfolk from oil spill-affected communities and cause-oriented groups gathered together in Pola, Oriental Mindoro – considered the ground zero of the oil spill from MT Princess Empress – to mark Earth Day and the effects of the oil spill.
The gathering was led by the Koalisyon ng mga Mangingisdang Apektado ng Oil Spill (KMAOS) and groups under the banner of Protect VIP (Protect Verde Island Passage), and was hosted by Pola’s Office of the Mayor.
“On Earth Day, we gather together to lament the national government’s inadequacy on one of the worst ecological disasters our country has faced. 900,000 liters of industrial oil are leaking into the Verde Island Passage, a center of biodiversity and the source of livelihood for two million Filipinos. MT Princess Empress is still in the bottom of the sea, the spill has not been contained, reparations have yet to be made, and most importantly, there is still no mention of who would be brought to justice for the damage done,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Protect VIP lead convenor and Social Action Center director of Calapan.
The program, dubbed “Lakbay para sa Inang Kalikasan,” featured a short skit led by KMAOS in which fisherfolk reenacted the struggles they have been forced to face in nearly two months since the oil spill began, using fishing tools damaged by the oil spill to show how their livelihood has been disrupted.
“Ang mantsa ng langis sa kagamitan ng mga mangingisda ay tanda ng pagkasirang dulot ng oil spill. Hindi pa rin makapangisda ang libu-libo sa amin dahil nilalason ng langis ang karagatan, hindi sapat ang natatamong tulong pangkabuhayan para sa matiyak ang pang-araw-araw na pangangailangan ng mga apektadong komunidad, at hindi pa rin nabibigyan ng katarungan ang mga biktima ng trahedyang ito. Ang langis na tumagas na sa ating karagatan ay hindi basta-basta mawawala. Pangmatagalan ang kinakailangang aksyon para pahilumin ang mga isda, bahura, at tubig ng mga karagatan namin lalo na ng VIP, at hindi maaaring maliitin ang tindi nito,” said Dindo Melaya, Convenor of KMAOS.
Earth Day is marked every year on April 22 on the basis of Proclamation 1481 “to raise the level of awareness on the gravity of environmental degradation and destruction in the country that threatens the very quality of life of many Filipinos.”
“We do not need Earth Day to raise awareness on the gravity of environmental degradation in the country. We just have to go to Pola and the other coastal communities affected by this spill. We ask the government to move quickly and move correctly on this matter, or more communities and families will be affected. The longer this crisis lasts, the longer it will take for nature to heal,” said Gariguez.