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Penalties for charterer and shipowner, reparation for affected communities sought

Protect Verde Island Passage (Protect VIP) on Tuesday called for the urgent exhaustion of available means to secure livelihood reparation and ensure immediate receipt of funds for the living expenses of communities affected by the oil spill, especially through holding polluting companies at fault accountable to penalties due to them.

The call comes after a senate hearing led by the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change revealed that the owner of the sunken tanker, RDC Reield Marine Services, Inc, had not secured sufficient requirements prior to allowing the tanker to sail and may thus face challenges in claiming payment from its foreign insurer. The voyage that led to the oil spill had been the 9th trip of the 2022 built tanker despite the company still being under the process of updating its Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) to include MT Princess Empress.

“We are outraged by this revelation. Ensuring the seaworthiness of ships that would pass through extremely rich and socio-ecologically important waters like the VIP, including necessary papers like inclusion in the CPC, should have been basic due diligence. This violation all the more points to the accountabilities of RDC and its charterer. We assert that any insurance claims challenges they may face due to this in no way excuses them from paying up,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Lead Convenor of Protect VIP.

SL Harbor Bulk Terminal Corporation, a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation’s (SMC) Shipping and Lighterage, chartered RDC Reield Marine Services to ship the 800,000 liters of industrial oil carried by the tanker MT Princess Empress that sank off the coast of Oriental Mindoro.

“With SMC as charterer, it is generally considered as the spiller and owner of the vessel involved. It has no business denying its role in bringing about this environmental nightmare. A look at rules governing oil spills on our country shows that SMC must pay a cash bond of at least Php 70,000,000 – Php 50 million for clean-up and containment and Php 20 million for damages and payment to impacted communities,” noted Gerry Arances, Executive Director of think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development and co-convenor of Protect VIP, citing the Revised Rules on Prevention, Containment, Abatement, and Control of Oil Marine Pollution of the Philippine Coast Guard Memorandum Circular No. 01-2005.

Latest projections from the UP Marine Science Institute state that the spill could now spread further south and northwards into Batangas and other areas of the VIP.

“We need to act fast. As we ask our authorities for urgent and transparent action to contain the spill and stop further damage, we also remind them that hunger and heightened poverty are a real threat confronted by affected communities,” Gariguez said.



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