Environmental disaster off the Philippines: “It’s a nightmare”

Status: 03/13/2023 1:48 p.m

Two weeks ago, a tanker with 800,000 liters of industrial oil on board sank off the Philippine coast. Since then, a huge oil slick has destroyed the livelihoods of numerous people. And the leak is still leaking.

After the sinking of an oil tanker off the Philippines, an environmental catastrophe spreads. The oil slick off the coast of Oriental Mindoro province is getting bigger and bigger. More than 140,000 people are now affected, either because they have lost their livelihood or are struggling with health consequences, local politicians said.

In addition to the province of Oriental Mindoro, the oil spill also reached the province of Antique and parts of the western province of Palawan, damaging algae farms, among other things.

Oil tanker sank in heavy seas

The tanker Princess Empress, which was en route from Bataan province near the capital Manila to central Iloilo province, had an engine failure on February 28, according to Philippine sources. It sank off the coast of Oriental Mindoro province in heavy seas with 800,000 liters of industrial oil on board. Since then, oil has been leaking from the ship.

The full extent of the environmental catastrophe is slowly becoming clear. “It’s a nightmare,” said Gloria Ramos, vice president of marine conservation organization Oceana Philippines. The oil spill kills everything, not just the marine ecosystems but also the livelihoods of local residents. “There are also health implications for people,” she added.

Tanker is still leaking

Many tried to scrape off the oil with their bare hands. “But that’s very dangerous because it can cause kidney and liver disease. That’s how toxic the oil is,” Ramos said. The tanker is still leaking, said provincial governor Humerlito Dolor. The owner is working to seal the leak.

Many fish have already died, and seaweeds, corals and mangroves have also been damaged. The current also pushed the oil northwards, it said. There it is now threatening the Isla Verde Strait, one of the most species-rich marine habitats of all. The strait lies between the islands of Luzon and Mindoro.

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