Come out, face people

SMC and the owner of RDC Reield Marine Services, the proprietor of the sunken MT Princess Empress, must face the public and take responsibility.

After more than two weeks of “radio silence,” as groups demanding accountability for the disastrous oil spill off Oriental Mindoro would put it, it was revealed that conglomerate San Miguel Corp. was the mystery owner of the payload.

What has unfolded, thus far, is very startling as the company that professed to be guided by “malasakit” (concern) during the pandemic, has chosen dead silence as residents of the areas affected by the fuel leaking from the oil tanker have sought immediate help.

The MT Princess Empress, carrying 800,000 liters of industrial oil, sank in the waters off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.

A massive oil spill ensued, prompting the provincial government to declare a state of calamity in 77 coastal barangays.

Environment watchdog Protect VIP, a coalition of environmentalists, communities, fisherfolk, and other sectors that seek to protect the Verde Island Passage condemned the way the conglomerate is handling the disaster.

“We have yet to hear from anyone from the company that owns the ship or the cargo. The oil spill has affected some 10,362 families or 48,885 individuals who are left in the dark as to whom they should seek reparations from,” said Fr. Edwin Gariguez, Protect VIP convener.

SMC and the owner of RDC Reield Marine Services, the proprietor of the sunken MT Princess Empress, must face the public and take responsibility before the communities in Oriental Mindoro.

The economic cost of the spreading disaster is mounting. The prices of food have increased, and with their livelihoods on hold, the incident has dealt a major blow to the people.

Since the sinking of the tanker, over 18,000 fishermen have been unable to fish; 36,000 hectares of mangroves, coral reefs, and fields of seagrass have been threatened.

Recent reports showed that according to Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor, 122 people in Oriental Mindoro, including children have fallen ill after oil reached their shores.

“I think that deserves at least one spokesperson to come out and say something on the record,” Gariguez said.

Think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, a member of the Protect VIP Network, deployed a team to survey the affected areas and found that the fishing ban is causing widespread hunger and economic displacement.

Thus, the need for financial aid is immediate. The cost, just for the lost livelihood of the residents, is enormous, based on CEED computations.

“Even ordinary people who own sari-sari stores, tricycle drivers who transport tourists, and resort workers have their livelihoods on pause as their waters have been poisoned by the oil spill,” said Gerry Arances, executive director of CEED.

SL Harbor Bulk Terminal Corporation, a subsidiary of SMC Shipping and Lighterage, chartered the MT Princess Empress.

“A look at the rules governing oil spills in our country shows that SMC must pay a cash bond of at least P70 million — P50 million for cleanup and containment, and P20 million for damages and payment to impacted communities,” Arances said, citing the Revised Rules on Prevention, Containment, Abatement, and Control of Oil Marine Pollution of Philippine Coast Guard Memorandum Circular 01-2005.

The amount is too low considering the initial impact of the catastrophe.

Consumers have been seeking accountability from SMC in the energy sector and now for the more serious degradation of nature because of the oil spill.

The conglomerate must give the public a thorough explanation — if only for the sake of its famous spiel during the pandemic: “Walang iwanan.”

Read more Daily Tribune stories at:

Follow us on social media
Facebook: @tribunephl
Youtube: TribuneNow
Twitter: @tribunephl
Instagram: @tribunephl
TikTok: @dailytribuneofficial