Philippine authorities have reportedly found the location of the MT Princess Empress, an oil tanker that sank off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, on February 28th, after experiencing engine trouble and drifting due to rough seas. The ship was carrying around 800,000 litres of industrial oil when it sank, and since then, it has caused a major oil spill, polluting the coastal waters near the site of the incident.
The tanker is believed to be located about 400 metres below the surface, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The site is located northeast of Pola, Oriental Mindoro, and the vessel is believed to have moved southeast from its last known position.
DENR will deploy a remotely operated vehicle to determine the exact location of the tanker and to model the way oil is leaking, but it will require favourable weather and currents.
The authorities have imposed a fishing ban and swimming has also been prohibited in the affected areas. The oil spill has put the livelihoods of thousands of fishers at risk and affected the incomes of communities that rely on tourism.
About 36,000 hectares (88,958 acres) of coral reef, mangrove, and sea grass is under threat of being affected by the oil spill.
The tanker’s owner, RDC Reield Marine Services Inc., has contracted two local agencies, Harbor Star Shipping Services and Malayan Towage and Salvage Corp, for the oil spill cleanup, and they will shoulder all expenses, including paying residents hired for cleanup jobs.
The Oriental Mindoro governor, Humerlito Dolor, said he would seek compensation for the damage and other expenses, assuring that “the damage done directly on the environment and on our people’s livelihood will be given corresponding compensation depending on what is stipulated in the compensation guidelines.”
The national government has also committed to hiring locals under a scheme to assist those whose livelihoods have been affected by the oil spill and temporary fishing and swimming bans in affected areas.