ILL-FATED CRUISE SHIP: This aerial photo provided by the Coast Guard District Palawan (CGDP) shows the ill-fated MV Forever Lucky still stuck on the sandbar where it ran aground on January 7, 2019, around 15 nautical miles from Barangay Nusa, Caganyancillo.

Salvage and clean-up efforts are underway to extricate MV Forever Lucky from the waters off Cagayancillo amidst fears of “further oil leak” if it is floundered by strong winds and wave surges, the Coast Guard District Palawan (CGDP) said Sunday.

CGDP spokesperson Ensign Allison Tindog said diesel residues which accidentally leaked out of the vessel’s engine room had been reported since it ran aground on January 7 but it had already been dispersed using chemicals.

“Ang engine room kasi talagang merong may mga ano dyan… may mga oil residues. So, kapag naano ng tubig ‘yon… ‘yon lang ang lumabas… ang nag-leak. Ang laman lang is 1,500 liters for consumption lang. Hindi hard fuel ‘yon, hindi persistent oil. Diesel lang… ang diesel very light ‘yon. Nagkaroon [ng oil leak,] tapos in-spray-an ng mga crew ng dispersant… chemical dispersant. Ngayon wala na… sandali lang ‘yon. Walang oil spill,” Tindog said.

(The engine room really has… there are oil residues there. So, when water… it was the only thing that came out… that leaked. The vessel only contains 1,500 liters of diesel for consumption only. It’s not hard fuel, it’s not persistent oil. It’s only diesel…which is very light. There was [an oil leak], but the crew sprayed dispersant… chemical dispersant. There’s no more oil leak now… it was there briefly. There’s no oil spill.)

Another aerial photo of the MV Forever Lucky taken by the Coast Guard District Palawan (CGDP).

MV Forever Lucky, which earlier figured in human smuggling controversy, got beached on a sandbank 15 nautical miles off the coastal barangay of Nusa, Cagayancillo.

As of press time, Tindog said BRP Cabra (MRRV-4409) and another vessel are on their way to Cagayancillo to evaluate and assess the situation to come up with a salvage plan.

He said the activity is part of the “oil spill contingency effort” activated on January 11 by Commodore Allen T. Toribio, commander of the CGDP.

A team of divers and technical experts from the Palawan Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of the provincial government, the Marine Environmental Protection Unit (MEPU), the vessel operator, and other line agencies are on the vessels to participate in the damage assessment.

Tindog explained the situation involving MV Forever Lucky is not easy since there is a continuing presence of burly winds in the area due to the northeast monsoon.

“Magco-conduct sila ng damage assessment — iyong mga divers and technical experts from MEPU and then from that, gagawa naman ng salvage plan para ma-umpisahan na. Ang nagiging problema lang kaya nagtatagal is talagang malakas ang hangin sa lugar.  Hindi nagco-cooperate and weather,” he said.

(They will conduct damage assessment — the divers and technical experts from MEPO and then from that a salvage plan will be made to start it. The only problem is that there are strong winds in the area. The weather is not cooperating.)

Tindog added that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) already wrote to Fahrenheit Company Limited (FCL), the operator of the cruise vessel, warning them that they could be sanctioned if they neglect their responsibility.

He said the plan that will be made out of the survey will be submitted to the CGDP for approval before the issuance of a “salvage permit.”

“Kapag na-isyuhan sila ng salvage permit at ma-comply nila ang ibang requirement that’s the time na mag-uumpisa ng tanggalin sa area iyong barko. Mag-cooperate lang sana itong weather (If they’ve been issued a salvage permit and they’ve complied other requirements, that’s the time they’ll start. We hope the weather cooperates.)

Tindog assured residents in Cagayancillo that there is no oil spill as attested also by Nusa barangay chairman Elma Favila and the tanods (security force) who are onboard the vessel to keep it safe from possible looters.

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