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DENR forms “Task Force Naujan Oil Spill”, crafts concrete measures to protect marine ecosystems

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DENR Statement No. 2: March 1, 2023

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has created Task Force Naujan Oil Spill after an emergency meeting convened between the Department, the Philippine Coast Guard, Oriental Mindoro Governor Bonz Dolor, and Naujan Mayor Henry Joel Teves. DENR Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo Loyzaga has designated Undersecretary and Chief of Staff Marilou Erni as Task Force Commander. Undersecretary Erni previously served as the corporate ground response coordinator during the Guimaras Oil Spill in 2006.

Other members of the Task Force include Undersecretary Jonas Leones, Undersecretary Juan Miguel Cuna, Assistant Secretary and concurrent Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Director Gilbert Gonzales, Assistant Secretary and concurrent Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director Marcial Amaro Jr., Regional Executive Director Lormelyn Claudio, and representatives from the local government units: Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PENR) Officer Alma Gibe and City Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Officer Rodel Boyles.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), particularly its Marine Environmental Protection Command, is the lead agency tasked with response operations in the affected area. PCG confirmed that the MT Princess Empress, which carries 800,000 liters of industrialized fuel oil, has already submerged. With known coordinates, PCG 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.

As of writing, the oil spill has reached an area six kilometers long and four kilometers wide. DENR-EMB carried out water sampling in three municipalities: Naujan, Pola, and Pinamalayan. A DENR-BMB report states that on a maximum of 40-kilometer radius from 5NM East of Balingawan Port, 21 locally-managed marine protected areas (LMMPAs) 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 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.

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