Photo credit: Philippine Coast Guard

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of Philippines has created an “oil spill task force NAUJAN ” to respond to the emergency situation after the  maritime incident involving a half-submerged motor tanker, Princess Empress, in the vicinity waters off Balingawan Point, Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, on 28th of February 2023. As of writing, the oil spill has reached an area six kilometers long and four kilometers wide.

In accordance with the latest information given by the department of environment and natural resources of Philippines, “DENR- EMB carried out water sampling in three municipalities: Naujan, Pola, and Pinamalayan, and reported that on a maximum of 40-kilometer radius from 5NM East of Balingawan Port, 21 locally-managed marine protected areas, can be potentially affected due to oil spillage. It has mapped potential risk areas including seagrass beds, mangroves, and dispersion pathways for spawned fish larvae.”

The Philippine Coast Guard confirmed that the vessel Princess Empress, which carries 800,000 liters of industrialized fuel oil, has already submerged. With known coordinates, the coast guard will install spill booms to protect the locally-managed marine protected areas. The Task Force, in cooperation with PCG and the Philippine Air Force, will conduct an aerial surveillance in the coming days to further assess the situation.

It is worth mentioning that the vessel departed from Bataan en route to Iloilo with 20 crew members (including the master) and approximately 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil on board.

Initial investigation revealed that the distressed motor tanker encountered engine trouble due to overheating. It then drifted towards the vicinity waters off Balingawan Point, due to rough sea conditions until it became half-submerged.

Photo credit: Philippine Coast Guard

The task force after an emergency meeting convened between the Department, the Philippine Coast Guard and other governmental units, have designated Undersecretary and Chief of Staff Marilou Erni, as Task Force Commander who coordinated also the Guimaras Oil Spill in 2006.

The Secretary expressed the DENR’s full support and assistance to Governor Dolor, Mayor Teves, and the other local governments affected. It has coordinated with experts in the private sector to immediately address the emergency situation and create a mid to long-term risk management strategy for the affected areas.