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PH to seek foreign assistance in clean up of Mindoro oil spill 

by Leila Salaverria

WITH the President directing officials to fast track the clean up of the massive oil spill off Oriental Mindoro, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) plans to seek the help of American soldiers participating in joint military exercises in the country for the task.

DENR Secretary Antonia Loyzaga informed the President that the department and the United States Embassy would explore the possibility of deploying the participants in the Balikatan for the clean up, mitigation and remediation efforts to reduce the impact of the disaster, according to a Malacañang statement.

The Balikatan is the annual joint military exercise between the Philippines and the US, which are defense allies.  

Other countries have offered to help the Philippines contain the oil spill.

Loyzaga said Japan and South Korea have said they are willing to offer assistance. 

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Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koshikawa Kazuhiko said Japan would send a team of oil control experts to help in the clean up efforts. 

“In coordination with the PH government, Japan will send a Disaster Relief Expert Team on oil removal and control to support on-going efforts in response to the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro. We are one with you in these trying times,” Kazuhiko said on Twitter. 

The oil spill resulted from the sinking of the MT Princess Empress off Oriental Mindoro on February 28. It was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil.

The tanker is discharging oil at a rate of 35,000 to 50,000 liters a day, said Loyzaga. 

The oil spill has reached several coastal areas in Oriental Mindoro and Antique. It has deprived many fisherfolk and coastal residents of sources of food and livelihood.

Marine experts also said 20,000 hectares of coral reefs, 9,900 hectares of mangroves, and 6,000 hectares of seagrass may be at risk from the oil slick. It may even reach parts of Palawan, which is one of the top tourist destinations in the country. 

Help for residents 

Meanwhile, Loyzaga said the government would offer a cash for work program to affected residents. 

She said some P60 million has been set aside for the cash-for-work program of the Department of Labor and Employment, called Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers. 

The DENR is also coordinating with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, local government units, and the owner of the tanker to get additional funds for assistance. 

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The areas where residents will be given temporary jobs include the towns of Bansud, Bongabong, Bulalacao, Gloria, Naujan, Pinamalayan, Pola and Roxas in Oriental Mindoro; Caluya in Antique and Agutaya in Palawan. 

According to the models of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Naujan and Pola in Oriental Mindoro will be the hardest hit.

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