Yes. The response to oil spills must be done with earnestness, as in hours or days, not months. Every day that such spill is left to flow with the tide, the farther the damage to marine life and to the very lives and livelihood of our fisherfolk.
Rep. Marlyn Alonte (Binan, Laguna), who chairs the committee on ecology, said the response to oil spills must be very quick as in minutes, hour or a few days but not weeks, worse even months, which President Marcos earlier said he hopes to be resolved in four months.
Alonte also saw gaps in logistics, training and regulations governing such maritime disasters that endanger the marine environment.
As Chair of the House Committee on Ecology, I take issue with how our government is responding to the ongoing oil spill debacle in Mindoro, which has already spread to Palawan and Western Visayas, she said in a press statement.
Clearly, our local governments, Coast Guard, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources are inadequately equipped to respond to oil spills. Our government agencies at the frontlines as first responders to oil spills do not have booms and other containment equipment, supplies, and measures.
So this early, I remind the DENR and Coast Guard to ensure their 2024 budgets have specific budget items for oil spill containment equipment, supplies, measures, and training. Send to Congress your multi-year budget estimates on how we can gradually but significantly improve our response and medium-term actions.
The training should be specific to oil spills and other maritime pollution protocols, and include training and equipment for Bantay Kalikasan volunteers. By equipment, I mean booms and skimmers. The Coast Guard and the major ports should also have their own oil spill booms and skimmers.
Training should involve capability-building so the Bantay Kalisakan can respond to oil spills within minutes after any ship of significant tonnage sinks.
The main problem with the current oil spill crisis is it took days for any booms to be deployed—by which time the oil had already spread to other islands. If containment booms and skimmers had been readily available and timely deployed, the damage would have been confined.
It also took several days before the location of the sunken MT Princess Empress. That ship’s exact location should have been known on the day it sunk.
It also took days before disaster aid and relief could be deployed in significant volumes to affected areas. In coastal barangays, survival is a daily issue, so days of delayed response from national agencies is unacceptable and the regulations on calamity funds for oil spills should enable quick response.
We really must thank the Government of Japan for sending us much-needed logistical aid. We also thank the Government of the United States for the oil spill assistance on its way.
Frankly, we should have asked for foreign assistance the day after the MT Princess Empress sunk, and the foreign aid could have been flown in on military cargo planes within a week of the oil spill disaster.
Last but equally important are the regulatory mishaps involved in the operation and chartering of the MT Princess Empress. Only in the past few days have the pertinent facts about the ship, its owners, operators, and the charter clients become public knowledge.
The goal should be that within one to two days of the sinking, the Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Ports Authority, and DENR should have reported to the news media and the general public everything their agencies know about the regulatory, operational, and corporate status of the sunken ship.
We must have standards on oil spill and maritime pollution response, readiness, and disclosure. Apparently, there are none. Our standards must match or at least approximate global standards
The agencies and local governments are still busy addressing the oil spill crisis now, but soon there must be a House oversight inquiry. We let them deal with the oil spill problem now. There must be days of reckoning ahead.
Tags: Rep.Alonte, #oiilspill, #responsemustbequick