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One year after oil spill: critical water quality more reason to demand accountability, protection of VIP

Advocates from Protect VIP call for accountability from polluters and legal protection of the Verde Island Passage as oil and grease levels in affected areas still exceeded water quality guidelines, a year after the oil spill.


The Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), a co-convenor of the Protect VIP Network, has already conducted three water quality tests, with results indicating that the water quality in the VIP fails to meet the standards for protected waters. The recent study released on Thursday, shows that all 3 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) failed the water quality guidelines set by the DENR for oil and grease in Calapan, Naujan, and Mansalay; while 4 out of 6 MPAs failed the standards in Pinamalayan and Pola.


Father Edwin Gariguez, lead convenor of Protect VIP, highlighted that the declining water quality in the VIP a year following the oil spill underscores the need for holding polluters accountable.


“The oil spill in Oriental Mindoro is not just an awful memory. The water quality results speak volumes about how this environmental disaster still clings to the waters of VIP a year later and the call for justice shall remain. We hope that this water quality testing will expedite the accountability and just compensation from the polluters that we have been insisting on since day one,” said Gariguez.


Ivan Andres, deputy head of Research and Policy program of CEED, stated that the persisting oil and grease in the oil spill-affected waters could lead to adverse long-term effects for the marine life and communities in the VIP. 


“This is the third water quality study conducted by CEED, and results persistently indicate that the water quality in the VIP fails to meet stringent standards for protected waters. Based on our recent findings, the majority of the affected waters are still reeling from the effects of the oil spill last year, and if not properly addressed, this can bring adverse effects to the fishing industry in the VIP and health hazards to its communities,” said Andres.


Gariguez also emphasized the need for legal protection for the VIP, not only for its biodiversity but also for the vulnerable communities reliant on it.  


“We want the people of Oriental Mindoro to move past this tragedy with the assurance that it will not happen again. This begins by limiting destructive industries from proliferating around the VIP by declaring it as a protected seascape under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Area Systems (ENIPAS) Act. Remnants of oil should not serve as the reminder left by this tragedy, rather, it should mark the commencement for the legal protection of the VIP,” Gariguez concluded.

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