THE Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) recently confirmed that the oil spill last week at the Lingayen Gulf has remained within the coastal areas of La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, and has not spread to the waters of Pangasinan.
Melchito Castro, OCD-Region 1 chief, also said the oil spill which being contained does not seem to have come from the earlier oil spill from the sunken MV Harita Bauxite that went down off the shores of Bolinao in Pangasinan on February 17.
“There’s no problem in Pangasinan. The sinking of M/V Harita Bauxite has caused no harm,” said Castro, confirming the earlier statement of Pangasinan provincial disaster management chief Fernando De Guzman that the leak has been confined to a one-kilometer radius.
Nonetheless, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) has formed a composite team to track and assess the damage caused by oil spill last week.
PDRRMC spokesperson Avenix Arenas said the team is composed of officers and personnel of the municipal DRMMC, Office of the Provincial Agriculturist, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine National Police, and Philippine Navy, among others.
The composition of the council will be finalized upon the receipt of the input and approval from the office of Governor Amado Espino Jr.
“We have to look into the effects and extent (of the oil spill) especially now that we have received a gale warning,” Arenas said.
The OCD, which has been cleaning up the spill together with the Philippine Coast Guard, has sent samples of the sludge and tarballs to Manila for examination to determine which ships have been ferrying that particular kind of oil.
Several vessels have docked on the coasts of La Union and Ilocos Sur before the oil spill, Castro said.
CLEAN IT UP
Meanwhile, Bolinao Mayor Alfonso Celeste wants the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) or any other maritime government agency to order the owner of the Myanmar vessel MV Arita Bauxite to clean up the remaining oil in the vessel, which remains underwater, through suction or lightering.
Celeste said some deep sea fishers have reported that they have recovered about 10 tanks of oil in the area around the sunken ship.
“For as long as the vessel is there, the threat of oil spill remains because the wind direction is towards our area, particularly from November to January,” the mayor said.
Celeste said the worst scenario would be heavy damages that could cause the mother nursery of giant clams here managed by the UP Marine Science Institute, 13 marine protected areas, aquaculture industry and tourism potentials as their beach area is considered an unexplored “Boracay of Pangasinan”.
“What if our white sands suddenly turned black because of the oil spill? They must act now to remove the remaining oil in the ship or we will regret it the future for not doing it,” Celeste said.
Meanwhile, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Regional Director Nestor Domenden said in a separate interview there is a need to find out the real source of the oil spill in the gulf.
He said there should be an inter-agency assessment to avoid biased reporting.
PDRRMC head Fernando de Guzman said he received a letter from Domenden urging his office to create a composite inter-agency team to check the damages caused by the oil spill in Bolinao and nearby coastal areas.
“We were alarmed by the effects of the oil spill in Bolinao but fotunately there has been no reported damage to our biodiversity. But we should not be complacent,” De Guzman said.
The BFAR also sent teams in La Union and Ilocos Sur to gather samples of the oil slick for laboratory tests, the results of which will be released next week.
Meanwhile, Arenas said the search and rescue operations for the missing crewmen of MV Harita Bauxite has shifted to retrieval operations last week.
At least 14 crewmen of the ship are still missing. Seven survivors are now under the care of the Bureau of Immigration while nine others and one fatality were retrieved on Sunday.
Arenas said the PDRRMC, Coast Guard and the OCD have advised fishermen in nearby barangays and vessels en route to the vicinity to be on the lookout for possible sighting of the missing crewmen. PIA-Pangasinan/VHS and Eva Visperas