Verde Island’s coral reefs safe from toxic oil

An underwater inspection was carried out after reports that a thin layer of oil had earlier found its way into the island’s waters.

Delfin T. Mallari Jr.

Delfin T. Mallari Jr.

The Philippines Inquirer


UNDERWATER ECOSYSTEM | Divers from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) inspect the coral reefs around Verde Island in Batangas City in this photo taken on Sunda, April 2, 2023. According to the PCG, the coral reefs remain “healthy and in safe condition” following the leak of industrial oil from the sunken MT Princess Empress some 100 kilometers from the island. (Photo from the Philippine Coast Guard in Southern Tagalog)

April 4, 2023

MANILA — Coral reefs around Verde Island in Batangas City were found free of toxic industrial oil from the sunken MT Princess Empress, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on Monday.

Filipino and American divers, including Cmdr. Inocencio Rosario Jr., the PCG chief in Southern Tagalog, and Lt. Max Cuchen of the US Navy 7th Fleet, conducted the underwater survey on the island’s coral reefs on April 2, according to the PCG-Southern Tagalog District.

The underwater inspection showed the corals near the island remained “healthy and in good condition” and had not been affected by the oil spill from the oil tanker that sank off Oriental Mindoro on Feb. 28.

A thin layer of oil had earlier found its way into the island’s waters, raising concern over its effect on the six-barangay island under the jurisdiction of Batangas City, which sits in the middle of the Verde Island Passage, the biodiversity-rich body of water between Mindoro and Batangas.

Last week, however, the Batangas City public information office declared that the waters around the island were safe from the destructive impact of the oil slick based on a test made on March 20. The test also showed that there was no oil contamination along the coastline of other areas in Batangas.

Verde Island is a popular tourist haven for its pristine, clear water and underwater treasures.

Last week, authorities said experts had started plugging the leak from MT Princess Empress, which was carrying some 800,000 liters of industrial fuel when it sank off Naujan town and was later found to have settled in the waters off the town of Pola, the worst-hit municipality in Oriental Mindoro.

On April 1, environmental group Greenpeace renewed its appeal to the government to go after those responsible for the oil spill that has damaged coastal resources in Oriental Mindoro, Caluya Island in Antique province and some parts of Palawan province; and to make them pay for the disruptions they caused to the lives of affected communities, particularly fishers.

According to the group, more than 19,000 fishermen have lost their livelihood after the oil spill.

The Department of Tourism had also reported that about a dozen tourism-oriented establishments on Mindoro Island were affected by the spill.

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