A fishing vessel carrying 70,000 liters of diesel sank off the cost of Catalagan, Batangas on Sunday, sparking fears of another oil spill as the area, part of the internationally acclaimed biodiversity hotspot Verde Island Passage (VIP), struggles to recover from the MT Princess Empress tragedy, which spilled 900,000 liters of industrial oil exactly six months prior.
The vessel, named Anita DJ II, sank due to strong rains in its journey to Palawan from Navotas, with its 13 crewmen all rescued. The Batangas Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO), in a report by Brigada Batangas, stated that the cargo was sealed, which may prevent an oil spill.
“Six months after MT Princess Empress, we are threatened with another oil spill that may poison the vulnerable ecosystem of VIP, even as issues from the previous spill remain unresolved,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Protect VIP Convenor.
“The cargo carried by Anita DJ II is much smaller than that of MT Princess Empress and there seem to be seals that would prevent a spill, but the government must still act fast to ensure that these seals hold and do not cause another ecological disaster,” he added.
Fisherfolk expressed concern as an oil spill may affect their ability to ply their trade, affecting their families and businesses that depend on their catch.
“Nakakabahala na maaring magkaroon ulit ng oil spill, lalo na’t kakatapos lang ng fishing ban sa Mindoro dala nung nakaraang oil spill ng MT Princess Empress. Bukod sa agarang aksyon para hindi tumagas ang krudo na dala nito, panahon na para magkaroon ng konkretong plano. Hangga’t bumibiyahe sa VIP ang mga barkong may dalang krudo at langis, hindi mawawala ang posibilidad na mangyayari ulit ang trahedya ng MT Princess Empress,” said Rodrigo de Jesus, President of the Bukluran ng Mangingisda ng Batangas (BMB).
Brent Ivan Andres, Program Head of the Oceans, Climate, and Coastal Communities of the Center of Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), stressed the call for the government to ban the movement of ships carrying toxic substances in VIP in light of the accident.
“We are a country vulnerable to climate change, where the weather is changing quickly, and this is on top of the 20 typhoons a year we normally get. Where there are ships with toxic cargo and sudden gusts of bad weather, there will be accidents even with all precautions taken. What more can happen once the giant gas projects are put up and huge LNG tankers start traveling more often in the area? It will be a recipe for a disaster greater than MV Princess Empress,” said Andres.