Personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard in northern Palawan create improvised spill booms in anticipation of the Mindoro oil spill.

The Palawan provincial government and other concerned authorities met in an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss how to reduce the impacts of the Mindoro oil spill, which occurred last February 28 when the tanker MS Princess Empress capsized off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) headed by Jeremias Alili stated that all associated offices in northern Palawan are on heightened alert as the oil spill threatens to reach their coasts.

At the meeting, the Tactical Operations Wing West (TOW West) and the Philippine Coast Guard District Palawan (PCGD Pal) have delivered updates on their aerial surveys of the municipal waters of Cuyo, Magsaysay, and Agutaya.

Although there are no traces of an oil spill in the provincial waters, PCG District Palawan commander Capt. Dennis Rem Labay stated that the District Oil Spill Contingency Plan (DOSCOP) is ready to respond to any potential impacts of the disaster.

According to Labay, one of the most essential actions in the DOSCOP is the prepositioning of oil spill combatting equipment, such as dispersants, backpack sprayers, absorbent pads, and spill booms, including indigenous ones created by volunteers and municipal governments.

“Yan ang pinaka important, pinaka preparation ng mga units natin sa area with the help of mga fisherfolk. Iniharang na nila yong mga spill booms nila doon sa mga beaches nila, pero wala pang spill, inunahan lang nila,” he said.

He believes the oil spill would eventually reach areas in northern Palawan; the only question is when. What’s encouraging is that municipal governments have already taken steps to mitigate its effects.

Based on the trajectory presented by the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI), the oil spillage is expected to reach the Cuyo Islands and some northern Palawan coastal towns.

“Tinatawagan ko isa isa yong mga substation, yong mga island substation—from Cuyo, Agutaya, Coron, Dumaran, Araceli—lahat, magre-report sila, but as of yesterday (March 7), wala,” he said.

Around 11,000 hectares of coral reefs from these towns are threatened to be affected by the oil spill. This represents more than half of the total coral reef, including that of Mindoro and Antique.