THE Philippine Coast Guard is not discounting the possibility that the oil leak from Motor Tanker (M/T) Princess Empress that recently sank off the vicinity of Nauian, Oriental Mindoro, has already reached the province of Antique.

The PCG has confirmed the presence of an oil spill in at least three barangays in the municipality of Caluya.

“Just yesterday, our personnel on the ground in Semirara, Caluya, Antique has verified and positively confirmed that there’s an impact of oil on (the) shorelines of Semirara,” Coast Guard District Western Visayas (CGDWV)Public Information Officer, Commander Jansen Y. Benjamin, said in a press conference on Saturday, May 4, 2023.

The M/T Princess Empress was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel when it sank off the waters of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.

The areas where the oil spill was detected in Caluya were estimated to be about 129 km. from where the motor tanker sank in Mindoro.

CGDWV Maritime Environmental Protection Force Commander Jonie B. Belarmino, in the same press conference, noted that while the weather condition and the water current could have enabled the oil spill to reach as far as Caluya, the water samples need to undergo laboratory tests for confirmation.

“It’s very early to say that this spill in Semirara is coming from Empress. That is why we continue gathering samples to be subjected to a laboratory (examination) to identify whether or not it came from the vessel,” he said.

The oil spill has reached the coastlines of Sitio Sabang in Barangay Tinogboc; Liwagao Island in Barangay Sibolo; and Sitio Tambak in Barangay Semirara, based on the 7 a.m. report of the CGDWV.

Initially, 150 families or 600 individuals from Liwago Island were affected while those in the other two barangays are still being consolidated.

The Coast Guard has estimated that 10 drums of the oil spill have affected the 1-km. coastline of Sitio Sabang while heavy spill subject to an assessment by barangay officials was monitored in the 2-km. coastline of Liwagao Island and light to minimal spill on the 2-km. coastline of Sitio Tambak.

Barangay officials and residents have collected six drums of oily waste in Sitio Sabang and two drums in Liwagao Island.

Meanwhile, Benjamin said there is a “very slim chance” for the oil spill to reach Boracay based on the prevailing wind condition.

“For now it’s very remote and very slim chance considering the wind and current prevailing condition, which is the northeast monsoon,” he added.

National government help sought

In a related development, Antique Governor Rhodora J. Cadiao has appealed to the national government for help amid the oil spill affecting the three coastal barangays.

“The oil spill is a grave threat to the seaweed and fishing industry in Caluya,” Cadiao said in her radio program on Saturday.

The island municipality has a multi-million seaweed industry and is a rich fishing ground, hence the need to address the oil spill, but the province does not have enough resources and capabilities, she added.

“We have to act fast together,” Cadiao said.

The governor has already convened the response cluster of the provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council for the necessary preparations. (PNA)