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Bolinao asks Singaporean owners of sunken ship to stop oil spill

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DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines—The municipal government of Bolinao, Pangasinan, has asked the owners of the sunken ship, MV Harita Bauxite, to immediately stop the vessel’s oil from spilling into the West Philippine Sea to prevent it from causing further damage to coastal communities.

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Lawyer Ayar Montemayor, spokesperson of the Bolinao government, said Mayor Alfonso Celeste has written the ship’s owners in Singapore to ask them to plug the holes in the ship’s fuel tank or to remove the fuel to stop it from spreading in the open sea.

MV Harita Bauxite, which was carrying nickel ore from Indonesia, sank 17 nautical miles (31.48 kilometers) off Cape Bolinao on February 17 after developing engine trouble. The vessel was on its way to China.

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One of the ship’s crew members died, nine were rescued while 14 others were reported missing.

Earlier, Philippine Coast Guard personnel reported an oil spill near the area where the ship sank, “moving to the northwest direction… on its way out of the West Philippine Sea.”

But on February 25, the presence of oil sludge was reported in some coastal villages of La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and just last week, in Bolinao.

“Our estimate is that MV Harita Bauxite may still be carrying about 500,000 liters of fuel, oil and lubricants for its machines,” Montemayor said.

He said the current may have shifted to the opposite direction, bringing the slick to the shores  of the fishing villages of Binabalian and Dewey on Santiago Island in Bolinao.

“In Binabalian alone, we have a span of around 600 meters of shoreline where we removed debris of about 25 sacks. Cleanup is still ongoing,” Montemayor said.

He said the municipal government feared the oil spill would reach the town’s marine protected areas, the giant clam (taklobo) farm of the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute and the tourism area in Barangay Patar, where several resorts are located.

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“If the oil spill reaches Patar, it will really have a big impact on our tourism, especially that it’s now summer, the peak season,” Montemayor said. “And of course, we also have the aquaculture industry in Bolinao and Anda.”

Bolinao and Anda towns supply 60 percent of the bangus (milkfish) sold in Metro Manila, records of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources show.

Montemayor said members of the Bolinao town council have yet to decide whether to declare a state of calamity in the two coastal villages where the sludge was found.

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TAGS: Bolinao, Environment, maritime accident, MV Harita Bauxite, Oil Spill, Pangasinan, Pollution
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