3 months since oil spill, residents decry lack of compensation, support

Photo courtesy of Serve The People Corps Southern Tagalog’s Facebook Page


MANILA – Three months since the Mindoro oil spill, residents and environmental advocates are appealing for more urgent solutions and assistance as its impacts on their lives and livelihoods persist.

“Three months have passed but our town and provincial council have not done any concrete actions to address our grievances, particularly for the fisherfolk,” said Benedick Sibayan, president of Hanay ng mga Yumayabong at Umuunlad na mga Mangingisda (Hayuma).

Sibayan joined the press conference by Hayuma and humanitarian aid group Serve the People Corps (STPC) – Southern Tagalog last Tuesday, May 30.

The oil spill resulting from Last the Feb. 28 incident has affected all 23 coastal areas of Calapan City and about thousands of families in the province. The MT Princess Empress carrying 800,000 liters of industrial oil capsized in the waters of Oriental Mindoro.

Read: Group calls for support for fishers affected by Mindoro oil spill

Read: ‘Impacts of oil spill worse than COVID’

Sibayan underscored that the supposed assistance from the “state of calamity” declaration is not yet given to the affected communities.

“In reality, we are not yet consulted by the councils, prompting a big question as to where the funds go,” Sibayan added.

Notably, relief aid and donations from the national government and private entities have been turned over to the provincial government since the onset of the oil spill. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) donated an additional P10 million in March, while the most recent donation of P1 million came from the Police Regional Office of Region 4-B.

Presidents of barangay organizations in Calapan are also calling out the government for the unfair distribution of aid and inadequate livelihood assistance.

“Some villages only receive their livelihood tranche once, while there are more tranches for others. More than that, the tranches given to us were not enough to sustain us,” one resident said.


Hilario Alcante, president of Bigyang Inspirasyon Yamang Alternatibo (BIYA), an organization from barangay Gutad, appealed to the local and national government to urgently aid them since their daily operations are still paralyzed.

“We experienced a crisis and we hope that the government sees the plight of ordinary people like us,” said Alcante.

Prior to the press conference, Hayuma submitted a letter to the city council on May 23 to specify their demands, calling it “Liham ng mga Mangingisda.”

The letter addressed to Bim Ignacio, Vice Mayor of Calapan City, stated the collective grievances of at least 500 fisherfolk from different barangays.

Among their demands is the transparency of budget expenditure and utilization of the Calamity Fund of the City and Provincial Government for the affected communities of the oil spill.

Photo courtesy of Serve The People Corps Southern Tagalog’s Facebook Page

“There should be an appropriate and fair investigation that caused the oil spill through the City Council. Most of all, appropriate and enough compensation should be given to all the residents who have lost their livelihood,” the letter read.

Sibayan also underscored that there is a lack of investigation and prosecution from the city and provincial government in the recent disaster.

“Now is the right time for the authorities to support us in waging a legal fight against the owner of the sunken ship,” Sibayan said.

No permit to operate?

In a report from the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), it was found that the ship has no updated permit to operate. Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard allowed it to sail nine times prior to its sinking.

In addition to this, the fisherfolk also criticized the lack of information about the policies and the environmental assessment.

“In the span of three months, not even once have we received any water sampling results from the authorities,” Sibayan said, highlighting that they only rely on media reports regarding the state of the oil spill.

He also shared that the implementation of the fishing ban is confusing.

“The town chief [punong lungsod] will tell us that the ban has been lifted, but then amid the sailing, the Philippine Coast Guard will prohibit us from fishing,” Sibayan added.

A recent study revealed that one for every three residents completely lost their livelihood due to the fishing and swimming ban in the region, according to the study of Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham) and Brigada Kalikasan.

Agham’s study also highlighted that no alternative means of livelihood are being provided to these affected residents.

“The oil spill is still ongoing and it will continue to impact the lives of Mindoreños. There is a need for comprehensive and regular monitoring for the affected coastal areas of Mindoro, particularly its marine-protected areas,” said Riza Marie Fausto, researcher, and member of the national secretariat of Agham.

Together, the organizations of fisherfolk, volunteers, and science advocates, demand scientific measures, clear communication, enough compensation, livelihood support from the government, and accountability from the RDC and San Miguel Corporation.

RDC is the owner of the MT Princess Empress, while the San Miguel Corporation owns the oil carried by the sunken ship. (JJE, RVO) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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