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PCG to conduct probe on permit presented by tanker in Mindoro oil spill

by Jericho Zafra

AFTER Senator Cynthia Villar revealed that the sunken MT Princess Empress had no permit to operate, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said it would investigate the certificate of public convenience (CPC) presented by the ship before it set sail on February 27.

Villar said at a Senate hearing on Tuesday that the MT Princess Empress had no authority to operate in the form of an amendment to its Certificate of Public Convenience (CPC).

A CPC is a license that the Maritime Industry Authority gives to a ship to provide domestic water transportation services for commercial or public usage. 

Senators then questioned the PCG and Marina for allowing the tanker to operate despite the lack of proper documents. 

PCG records 

After the hearing, the PCG released a copy of what it said was the tanker’s CPC, “contrary to the report that the PCG cleared the said vessel without CPC.”

In a press briefing, PCG Spokesperson Armand Balilo presented a copy of MT Princess Empress franchise documents. He said that the agency relied on the presumption that the documents presented to them were valid since these were authenticated by MARINA.

“Pinachecheck pa namin ‘yung ibang bayan kung saan siya dumaong at kung may inspection na ginawa, at kung may sinubmit na CPC, pero as far as we are concerned, we rely on this document kaya namin pinayagan ‘yung barko na maglayag,” Balilo said.

On February 28, the MT Princess Empress sank while sailing in the waters of Mindoro while transporting 800,000 liters of industrial fuel.

Its crew members were brought to safety following the incident, but the sunken tanker caused an oil spill in the seas of Mindoro.

The oil slick has since reached several coastal areas in several provinces, affecting people’s food sources and means of livelihood. It has also destroyed marine resources in the area. 

According to the PCG, the MT Princess Empress had used the documents four times in their transactions with the PCG before it sank. The tanker had presented the CPC in its transactions going to Manila, Cebu, Misamis Oriental, and Iloilo, Balilo said.

During the senate hearing, MARINA confirmed that the MT Princess Empress does not have the authority to operate since its tanker owner RDC Reield Marine Services has yet to amend its CPC. 

Fritzie Tee, RDC Reield Marine Services Vice President, also confirmed that the tanker had operated nine times already despite not securing an amended CPC.

More probes underway

Aside from investigating the validity of the documents presented by MT Princess Empress, the PCG also said it was not ruling out “negligence” on the part of its ranks. This was because it was also found out that the boarding team did not go aboard to inspect the documents from the ship.

“Nag-utos na po ng investigation at kung mapatunayan na mayroong lapses, mayroong kasalanan, tayo naman ay hindi natin ito-tolerate at bibigyan natin ng tamang kaparusahan kung sino man ‘yung nagkasala,” said Balilo.

Because of the oil spill incident, at least 77 coastal settlements were declared to be in a state of calamity. 

The Department of Social Welfare and Development said some 31,392 families or 141,988 individuals have been affected by the incident. 

The oil spill has already reached the shores of Taytay Palawan, which is 295 kilometers away from Naujan town where the tanker sank. Experts had also warned that the oil spill may reach Verde Island Passage, which is the global center of marine biodiversity. 



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