Environment Secretary Antonia Loyzaga recently met with local shipowners and agreed to work with them in addressing the gaps towards preventing oil spills in Philippine waters.

“The first thing we need to do is change the way people think about disasters because right now people think about response,” Secretary Loyzaga stressed. “We need to prevent the risk and that needs to be translated in the policies, in the processes, and in the technical capacities of the people that are actually implementing these laws.”

Secretary Loyzaga added: “Our commitment with them is that we will sit together and come up with a technical working group on the policy change that needs to happen with emphasis on prevention. We need to actually look at the legislation that needs to be updated.”

Secretary Loyzaga said the shipping operators reached out to her to see how they could help the DENR with preventing and responding to future disasters.

“I have discussed with them the importance of identifying the gaps organizationally, functionally, legally, and policy- and practice-wise so that we can prevent another oil spill from happening again,” she disclosed.

Among the gaps identified in the discussion were the classification of ships and the number of permits issued for specific purposes.

These newly gathered information, Loyzaga explained, would then be useful in the continuing discussion with shipowners and concerned government agencies on preventing oil spill disasters.

Earlier, Secretary Loyzaga explained that the DENR has been proactively working with local and national government agencies to mitigate the effects of the oil spill, and prevent it from spreading to other areas.

In a recent interview, she has explained how the department has worked with the Philippine Coast Guard and the affected provinces in locating the sunken ship through NAMRIA’s mapping ship, partnering with local and international experts to understand the projection of the spill, implementing the cash-for-work program with the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and how it is continuously doing water and air sampling, among others. #