Sunken freighter causing Philippines oil spill found

Manila, Mar 21 (EFE).- Philippine authorities announced Tuesday they had found a cargo ship sunk off the country’s western coast, which could help contain a spill already affecting numerous coastal towns and important marine reserves.

“Finally, the MT Princess Empress [sunken freighter] has been found!” said Humerlito Dolor, governor of Oriental Mindoro – the province most affected by the spill – in a message on social media, adding that a robotic vehicle provided by Japan’s government located the ship.

He did not offer further details of the operation, but published along with the message an image of the sunken ship taken by the unmanned vehicle, showing the bow of the MT Princess at the bottom of the sea at a depth of almost 395 meters.

The coordinates of the MT Princess, a cargo ship with the Philippine flag and built in 2022 that capsized on Feb. 28 with 800,000 liters of industrial oil, show the ship sank between the islands of Mindoro and Tablas, on the Western Philippine coast.

Rafaelito Alejandro, Philippine Civil Defense Office director, said Monday that the Japanese unmanned vehicle had arrived at the accident site to try to locate the sunken freighter and “try to control the spill from its source.”

The news of the sighting comes after a report published Sunday by the University of the Philippines said the sunken ship continues to spill oil into the ocean, although it did not specify the amount.

The oil spill already affects more than 151,000 people who live off the coast where the spill has arrived, dozens of whom have fallen ill, while more than 19,000 fishermen have seen their catches reduced or are prohibited from fishing.

So far, according to university’s estimates, more than 533 hectares of mangroves have been affected by the spill in Pola alone, in Oriental Mindoro, one of the towns that has suffered the most from the oil spill due to its proximity to the sinking of the cargo ship.

According to an expert from the university sent to assess the environmental damage, cleaning up the spill could take up to a year, and fishermen from the towns near the spill would be unable to fish in these waters for at least six months. EFE


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