The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has affirmed its commitment to closely and actively coordinate with other agencies involved in the ongoing Oriental Mindoro oil spill response in line with the “whole-of-government” approach being espoused by the Marcos administration.

DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones said the agency will continue to monitor water quality in affected areas, assess the environmental impacts, and provide the necessary technical assistance in addressing the oil spill disaster.

“The DENR, under the able leadership of Secretary Antonia Loyzaga, has been doing its part in a whole-of-government approach to address the oil spill incident,” Leones pointed out. “When you say whole-of-government, it involves collaboration among the different departments and agencies of government with a view to providing the public a combined response to the disaster.”

Just recently, the DENR and the Department of Health issued a joint statement announcing the results of the latest water quality tests conducted in Puerto Galera, a popular beach destination and diving site in Oriental Mindoro.

The results released last April 14 showed that only nine of 35 sampling stations have met the criteria for water quality guidelines on “oil and grease” contaminants set under DENR Administrative Order 2016-08 or the Water Quality Guidelines and General Effluent Standards of 2016.

There used to be only six sampling stations in Puerto Galera, but the DENR decided to put up another 29 in the wake of the oil spill incident in order to provide more accurate results that could be used as basis for measures to reduce or prevent hazards to human and environmental health.

Meanwhile, Secretary Loyzaga lauded the provincial government of Oriental Mindoro led by Governor Humerlito "Bonz" Dolor for taking the lead role in the response efforts and for making the different departments work together to assist the province in addressing the disaster brought by the oil spill.

“Governor Dolor really is the main response and so we have to give credit where credit is due, and that he was able to address and help also the different municipalities in trying to confront the challenge of the spill,” Loyzaga said.

“We need to acknowledge this and I think that to the credit of the local government, they’ve been able to assemble the different support from the different departments, and for all of us to work together,” she added.

In addition to its mandate for the environment, the DENR has been in close collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in enforcing the cash-for-work program to assist those whose daily incomes have been severely affected by the oil spill.

Based on the DENR Situational Report released on April 17, a total of 17,342 beneficiaries from Regions IV-B and VI have received payouts equivalent to P317,342,516.

“During last Saturday’s (April 15) meeting in Mindoro with the President, we emphasized this – it is a whole of government approach,” Loyzaga said. “DSWD has been involved, DOLE has been very much involved as well. DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) has been involved because of the scale of the impact on the SMEs (small and medium enterprises).”

At the onset of the disaster, the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority or NAMRIA, an attached agency of the DENR, deployed BRP Hydrographer Ventura to locate the sunken vessel through the use of a multibeam survey or bathymetric data.

In collaboration with the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI), a trajectory map that served as a guide to install spill booms and to help direct efforts in affected areas has been developed.

The DENR-MIMAROPA and Environmental Management Bureau in Region IV-B have installed spill booms as a precautionary measure to prevent damage to marine environments. The booms are made from indigenous materials, which are readily accessible to the immediate communities.

The National Space Agency provided satellite images of the oil spill flow to aid in the containment and cleanup of the oil spill and to come up with appropriate interventions.

The DENR field offices also provided technical assistance on the proper collection, storage and disposal of oil waste and oil-contaminated materials collected during the cleanup. A total of 4,220 liters of oil wastes and 208,820.10 liters of oil-contaminated wastes have been collected from Regions IV-A, IV-B and VI.

According to Undersecretary Leones, the DENR is also working with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in its case build-up against those responsible for the oil slick.

Possible violations against environmental laws, especially the Philippine Clean Water Act, will be added to the overall assessment of the potential damage, which total cost will be determined by the DOJ. The DOJ findings will also include the compensation due to affected fisherfolk. #