Manila, Philippines – International environment group, Oceana, calls on the government to immediately implement the mechanisms and actions to stop further damage on the marine environment, fisheries resources and livelihoods in the affected Verde Island Passage (VIP) which is the center of the center of marine biodiversity in the world.
“All of us should be alarmed at the devastation and damage of this ongoing tragedy on fisheries resources and coastal marine ecosystems, particularly, mangroves, seagrass and coral reefs in this ecologically sensitive area which likewise impact the livelihoods of artisanal fisherfolk and coastal communities including tourism. There are many questions that need immediate response from government among which are measures taken to ensure that the compliance with our national laws and regulations including the safeguards under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL),” said Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Oceana Vice President.
According to the ocean conservation group, the oil spill can coat the marine habitats and animals. This can clog the gills of fish and marine invertebrates and damage the feathers of birds and fur of marine mammals. The toxic materials can be harmful even to humans if they consume the contaminated seafood.
Ramos said the authorities are expected to immediately start the investigation and testing on the extent of contamination and impact on the marine environment and fisheries resources and made these publicly accessible data, while the local fisherfolk dependent on this affected body of water for their food and livelihood must be given immediate assistance.
Aquatic pollution is punishable under various laws, including the Fisheries Code (RA 8550 as amended by RA 10654), Clean Water Act (RA 9275), and the Oil Pollution Law (RA 9483).
According to Oceana, the principle of polluters must pay is evident in these laws, hence the one responsible for causing the pollution must pay for the damages, and the rehabilitation of these resources.
“The involved agencies including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and local government units should immediately convene for the much-needed emergency response to contain the spread of the pollution and look into affected communities. We also call for the immediate investigation of this incident and responsible government agencies like the Philippine Coast Guard and MARINA must ensure strict measures are in place so that ships are not allowed to travel if they are not seaworthy anymore,” explained Ramos.
According to Ramos, reports point to engine trouble as the proximate cause of the sinking and subsequent oil spill so questions arise as to whether boat should not have been allowed to leave port if thoroughly checked.
Oceana said all responsible entities must be held accountable for the impacts on the ecosystem services and economic implication on tourism and fisheries especially in VIP which is ecologically sensitive.
According to various laws, the local government may also file criminal and civil cases against the vessel owner. The criminal fines are from 600,000 to one million, and 30,000 per day; imprisonment of six years and one day to 12 years. The administrative fine is only half of the criminal fines.
Strict liability for oil pollution damage is also spelled out in the Oil Pollution Law (RA 9483). The Ship owner is liable for damages, which shall include, but not limited to:
- Reasonable expenses actually incurred in clean-up operations at sea or on shore;
- Reasonable expenses of Preventive Measures and further loss or damage caused by preventive measures;
- Consequential loss or loss of earnings suffered by Owners or users of property contaminated or damaged as a direct result of an Incident;
- Pure economic loss or loss of earnings sustained by persons although the property contaminated or damaged as a direct result of an Incident does not belong to them;
- Damage to human health or loss of life as a direct result of the Incident, including expenses for rehabilitation and recuperation: Provided, That costs of studies or diagnoses to determine the long-term damage shall also be included; and
- Environmental damages and other reasonable measures of environmental restoration.
“Those responsible should pay for damages that include Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) to the affected areas and the sectors concerned. Oil spill, such as the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon cases in the United States and in Guimaras and Cordova in the Philippines. has lasting effects and can take decades before the benefits of the marine ecosystem are restored although not fully. That is why, measures should be strictly enforced and those who have been remiss in their duties should be held accountable. In addition, with the already-felt impacts of climate change, we need to shift gears and lessen our dependency on fossil fuels including oil and gas, and move towards a carbon-free future,” said Ramos.
Oceana is an international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. Since 2014, Oceana has been working closely with national and local government agencies, civil society, fisherfolk and other stakeholders to restore abundance of Philippine fisheries and marine resources. (END)
For More Information:
Joyce Sierra, Communications Manager, Oceana
Mobile: 09178214430 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org