Dozens fall ill after toxic oil spill washes up on Philippines coast
Manila, Mar 9 (EFE).- At least 43 people have fallen ill in coastal villages in the Philippines after the oil spill from a sunken tanker washed up on their shores, officials said on Thursday.
“The number of people who have experienced symptoms of intoxication is already 43, and we fear that it will increase in the coming days if industrial oil continues to reach the coast,” sources from the Provincial Information Office in Oriental Mindoro, the province that has been most affected by the oil spill, told Efe.
Most of the people who have presented symptoms of intoxication are residents of the municipality of Pola, on the island of Mindoro which sits some 140 kilometers southwest of Manila. So far, only one resident has been hospitalized.
The provincial government also announced it would conduct a “massive cleanup” operation that would commence on Friday working with several agencies and volunteers.
The government has declared a state of calamity in more than 78 coastal villages in Oriental Mindoro where the slick has reached the shores.
Residents who were living less than 100 meters from the oil-drenched coastline have been evacuated and fishermen have not been able to fish since the accident happened on February 28.
The MT Princess Empress sunk in rough seas off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro province, carrying about 800,000 liters of industrial oil.
Although the United States space agency NASA estimated the Guimaras spill at about 200,000 liters, other studies believe that it reached half a million liters of spilled oil.
Officials believe that the Philippine-flagged cargo ship, built in 2022, is lying 400 meters below sea level.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Wednesday that it could take authorities up to four months to finish cleaning up the spill.
He based his prediction on the 2006 cleanup operation following the sinking of a vessel carrying nearly 2 million liters of oil off the coast of Guimaras, causing the worst oil spill in Philippines history.
To speed up the operation, Japan is sending a team of oil control experts from its coast guard, Japanese Ambassador Kazuhiko Koshikawa confirmed on Wednesday.
The Philippine coast guard says around 230 liters of floating oil have been collected from the shoreline.
The University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute estimates that some 36,000 hectares of coral reefs, 9,900 ha of mangroves and 6,000 ha of seagrass may be affected.
Around 18,000 fishermen have been ordered to stop their activity in Oriental Mindoro, affecting their livelihoods, according to local media.EFE