Oil spill cleanup in Sarangani Bay ends

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 August) – The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has terminated its oil spill cleanup operations along the Sarangani Bay as it declared to have contained the oil leak from a cargo vessel that sank in the area last week following a collision with a foreign-flagged container carrier.

Commander Roy Echeverria, PCG station chief here, said the oil spill has so far thinned out and no longer poses any danger to the marine resources and the coastal communities along the Sarangani Bay.

“Our personnel went to the collision site [Tuesday morning] and they did not find any trace of oil there anymore,” he told reporters.

The official said an earlier aerial inspection conducted by the PCG’s marine environment protection unit showed that the oil spill has continued to move deeper into the seas and was last monitored at seven nautical miles off the coast of Maasim town in Sarangani Province.

PCG personnel launched the cleanup operations after cargo vessel M/V Bulk Carrier 1 sank off Maasim town on Tuesday night last week and leaked an estimated 3,000 liters of industrial diesel fuel that initially covered at least three hectares of the area.

Echeverria said they initially sprayed dispersants to contain the oil spill and stop them from reaching the nearby coastal areas.

But he said they did not consider the oil spill as dangerous since the type of oil that leaked from the cargo vessel was a special type of industrial oil that naturally disperses and eventually evaporates.

M/V Bulk Carrier 1, which is owned by Cebu City-based firm Polsa Shipping Lines, sank after colliding with the larger Monrovia, Liberia-registered M/V HS Puccini.

Two of its crew members remained missing and had been declared dead while 21 others survived the incident.

The cargo vessel, which originated at the Makar Wharf here, was en route to Dumaguete City carrying 16,000 bags of corn grits from Sultan Kudarat province when the collision happened.

M/V HS Puccini, which is operated by shipping firm American President Lines, came from Hong Kong and was then en route to this city after making a brief stop in Davao City.

Meantime, Echeverria said they allowed M/V HS Puccini to transfer from the Makar Wharf here to Davao City following its compliance of several requirements set by the PCG.

“First, there were no cases filed yet against the vessel and its crew and second, the SBMI (Special Board of Marine Inquiry) is being held in Davao City so we decided to just hold the vessel there,” he said.

The PCG earlier activated its SBMI to investigate and look deeper into the circumstances behind the Aug. 9 collision of the two cargo vessels.

Echeverria assured that M/V HS Puccini will not be allowed to leave the Davao port until the SBMI investigation is completed and with all matters pertaining to the incident properly resolved.

He said they posted three security personnel at the M/V HS Puccini to ensure that it would not leave the Davao port and properly comply with the conditions set by the PCG. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)