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Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle Needed To Clean Up Oil Spill – PCG

Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle Needed To Clean Up Oil Spill – PCG
Members of the Philippine Coast Guard and the Japan Disaster Response Team conduct an ocular inspection in the waters off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro on board BRP Bagacay on March 12, 2023. The JDR Team will help sustain the ongoing oil spill response operations in the province. Photo from the PCG

The Philippine Coast Guard said on Monday, March 13, that authorities in Oriental Mindoro are still waiting for the underwater remotely operated underwater (ROV) to be used in cleaning up the oil spill in the area.

In an interview on “One Balita Pilipinas” on One PH, Commodore Geronimo Tuvilla, incident commander for the oil spill, said they have coordinated with the local contractor to provide the ROV.

According to Tuvilla, the ROV and company representatives should arrive by Sunday, March 19, but admitted that it could still be subject to change.

Binigyan nila tayo ng estimate ng kanilang araw na dadating dito (They gave us an estimated time of arrival). Accordingly, mga (around) six days,” Tuvilla said.

The M/T Princess Empress, owned by RDC Reield Marine Services, was carrying 800,000 liters (210,000 gallons) of industrial fuel oil when it sank more than a week ago off Oriental Mindoro.

While all 20 crew were rescued, the sinking led to 77 coastal barangays and nine municipalities in the province being placed under a state of calamity.

On Saturday, March 11, PCG commandant Admiral Artemio Abu said the vessel had been found by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) at 389.1 meters below sea level, and is 13.89 kilometers northeast of Balingawan Point in Pola, Oriental Mindoro. 

Abu said the country’s own ROV would not be capable of doing the cleanup.

The spillage has reached Antique, Iloilo and Negros Occidental. In line with University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute’s (UP-MSI) projections, it has also reached one part of northern Palawan.

According to the Department of Tourism, the oil spill could reach as far as Boracay in Aklan. And if a weak amihan season continues, the UP-MSI said even the Verde Island Passage between Batangas and Mindoro could be affected by Thursday, March 16.

The strait houses a rich marine biodiversity, which includes a high concentration of coastal fish, crustaceans, mollusks, mangroves and seagrass along with endangered turtles such as hawksbills, and green turtles, giant clams, and humphead wrasses to name a few.

Two contractors have been tapped since then by RDC Reield Marine Services. These are Malayan Towage and Salvage Corporation and Harbor Star Shipping Services.

Harbor Star in particular, would be in charge of preventing further oil leaks. According to its president Rodrigo Bella, the company has its own ROV which can go up to 500 meters below sea level, and is capable of sealing open valves in the tanker with its mechanical arms. 

International aid

Tuvilla also confirmed the arrival of the Japanese experts to aid in the country’s response to the oil spill.

On March 10, the Japan Disaster Relief (JDR) Expert Team was welcomed by the PCG. Composed of eight members, it is led by Nihei Daisuke, a minister from the Japanese embassy in Manila.

Five are from the Japanese Coast Guard (JCG), two are from the embassy, and one is from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). They are to help in investigating the extent of damage along with guiding containment and cleanup efforts.

According to Tuvilla, the JDR also complemented the country’s “unified” response to the oil spill.

Aside from the PCG and RDC Reield Marine Services, local government units in affected areas are also participating in cleanup and containment efforts.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is coordinating these efforts, while the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has provided financial aid to affected residents.

Nandito po ‘yung Japan Coast Guard Strike Team. They are also advising us, joining us doon sa aming operation, and they commended po ‘yung unified approach ng mga ahensya dito ngayon. So maganda naman ‘yung approach natin (So we have a good approach),” he said.

Tuvilla added that equipment such as oil blotters, heavy oil masks oil snares, and oil-proof working gloves and rubber boots had also arrived to ensure safety of all those who will participate in cleanup and containment efforts.

“So it will be transported to Pola… these experts will recommend what type of equipment that they have…can be utilized for our operation,” he said.

The government has also asked the United States government to provide additional equipment. South Korea, on the other hand, has expressed its intention to help, according to DENR Secretary Antonia Loyzaga.


Last week, DSWD Assistant Secretary Romel Lopez said over 14,000 residents of Oriental Mindoro and Palawan would benefit from the agency’s cash-for-work program following the recent oil spill in the area.

On One PH’s “One Balita Now,” Lopez said that the program will start by Wednesday, March 15, and will make use of Region 4-B’s P355 minimum wage.

The DSWD is still validating the list of beneficiaries sent by the provincial offices of Oriental Mindoro and Palawan to better identify who else can join the program.

“So far po, nasa 14,220 na po na mga individuals, katumbas po nito ang isang breadwiner ng kanilang pamilya ang ipapasok natin dito sa programa,” Lopez said during the interview on Thursday, March 9.

Earlier reports said dozens of people have fallen ill after the oil spill. Those living in affected villages had reported suffering vomiting, headaches and nausea since the oil reached their shores.

Lopez said the cash-for-work program would be implemented for 15 days, but can be extended upon reassessment of the situation by the DSWD’s field offices.

Resident of Agutaya, Palawan will receive an emergency cash transfer as the livelihoods in the area were not affected unlike in Oriental Mindoro where a fishing ban was imposed and stopped 18,000 fisherfolk along with vendors and coastal-based tourism personnel from working.

Lopez also said the list of beneficiaries in Oriental Mindoro may increase depending on the validation and reassessment by the DSWD, with highly affected residents – such as the fishermen and the poorest of the poor – still being the priority.

Lopez noted that the DSWD has released an estimated P5.4 million worth of aid to over 25,000 families affected by the oil spill in areas even outside of Oriental Mindoro.