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PCG Probes Sunken Oil Tanker’s Permit

PCG Probes Sunken Oil Tanker’s Permit
A member of the Philippine Coast Guard takes part in the clean up of the oil spill in the waters of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro on March 2, 2023. Photo from the PCG Facebook page

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has found some irregularities in the franchise granted by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) to the sunken M/T Princess Empress.

PCG spokesman Rear Admiral Armand Balilo said on Wednesday, March 15, the PCG has been instructed to investigate the Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC) granted by MARINA to Princess Empress, which caused a massive oil spill when it sank in the waters off Oriental Mindoro on Feb. 28. 

“Initially, there seemed to be a denial from the MARINA, and (on Tuesday, March 14) the owner of the vessel told the Senate panel that its CPC has yet to be approved,” Balilo said.

He said there was no valid CPC granted to the Empress. He stood firm that the motor tanker was allowed to sail as the PCG was given a CPC from the MARINA.

Balilo’s statement came after the Senate committee on environment on Tuesday discovered that the Empress was allowed to operate even without an updated CPC.

The PCG and the MARINA are attached agencies of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for the maritime sector. 

Balilo said the Empress was allowed to sail based on a copy of the CPC available at the PCG-Central Luzon station, which has jurisdiction over Bataan and the National Capital Region. 

He said the PCG relied on the “presumption of regularity” when it allowed the Empress to sail. 

“Now, if this CPC is not valid, it’s up to the company to prove otherwise. When this was given to us, we trusted that it was approved by the MARINA, authentic and valid,” Balilo said. ”We used it as basis to allow the vessel to sail.” 

He said the PCG could only implement the CPC granted to vessels, which means that these were properly checked by the MARINA and were approved to operate at sea, noting the PCG does not allow vessels to operate without proper documents. 

As part of the investigation, Balilo said the PCG was instructed to conduct its own probe and coordinate with the DOTr and the maritime cluster, including the MARINA, to determine the reasons why the Empress was granted a CPC. 

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto suggested that the government could utilize a portion of the P380-billion annual tax collected from crude oil and petroleum products to clean the Mindoro oil spill and indemnify affected coastal residents.

Recto said that P1 billion alone, which is only “one day’s worth of oil tax collections,” would be enough to jumpstart “abatement and alleviation measures in areas hit by the ecological disaster.” – With Delon Porcalla, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Paolo Romero