‘Logistical nightmare’ threatens clean-up of Philippine oil spill

The oil spill had spread to other islands and there may be areas that would be hard to reach and require technical expertise. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA – Cleaning up the oil spill in the Philippines has become a “logistical nightmare”, the contractor tasked to do the job said, as multiple stakeholders grapple with industrial fuel that has quickly spread to hard-to-reach areas.

The clean-up will likely take three to four months, Mr Ricardo Rodrigo Bella, vice-president at Philippine-listed Harbor Star Shipping Services, said in a phone interview on Monday.

The company has to wait for inputs from several local governments and agencies before it can start work, he said.

“The trajectory is really big,” Mr Bella said. “There’s still a threat of more oil spill.”

The Princess Empress tanker was carrying 800,000 litres of industrial fuel when it sank off Mindoro province, south of the capital Manila, in early March, turning swathes of nearby shoreline black and leading the authorities to declare a state of calamity there. The Philippine Coast Guard is also working with Japan to address the oil spill.

Unlike previous oil spill incidents in the South-east Asian nation where the slick was concentrated in one area, the latest one had spread to other islands and there may be areas that would be hard to reach and require technical expertise, Mr Bella said.

From Mindoro, the oil had reached other provinces, including coal-rich Antique and the northern part of beach paradise Palawan. The presence of mangroves on tidal areas may also need a different approach, he said.

At the same time, work has been limited to four hours a day, as recommended by the Department of Health, to shield workers from potential harm from oil exposure, Mr Bella added.

The Philippine-listed company was hired to work with French firm Le Floch Depollution in the shoreline clean-up and oil waste disposal, he said. BLOOMBERG

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.