CALAPAN CITY, Oriental Mindoro -- As the Senate began its probe on the oil spill incident on Tuesday, March 14, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda has urged the current administration to delegate an overall in charge in addressing and responding to the environmental disaster that affects various provinces in the regions of MIMAROPA and Western Visayas (Region VI).
During the inquiry, Legarda stressed the need for concerted action to mitigate the damage caused by the oil leakage after MT Princess Empress capsized off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, on February 28.
“Who among the government agencies present here ang siyang namumuno ng lahat ng ito? There should be one commander, dapat may nagtitimon. There should be an overall in charge," Legarda stated during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change.
"There should be one head. We cannot have different agencies – while well-meaning, well-funded, have the resources without a head. I call on the president to designate [an overall in charge] among agencies," she stated.
Committee Chairperson Senator Cynthia Villar said the committee would write a letter addressed to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to officially request the appointment of a focal person in charge of the incident.
Legarda also asked about the extent of the oil spill, the number of affected families, and what assistance the government has provided to date.
"We have to know ilang kilometro offshore ang apektado. Kailangan malaman natin ito to know how much is affected by this oil spill. It's not just [environmental], [economic], or maritime but the effect on livelihood. We need a prospective estimate of the damages," she said.
According to the latest data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the government has distributed at least P20 million in cash aid to residents affected by the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro.
For the province of Antique, Legarda, in cooperation with Antique Representative AA Legarda, provided cash assistance amounting to P3,000 per household to 570 families affected by the oil spill. These families also received an additional P5,070 pesos from DSWD's Emergency Cash Transfer (ECT) program.
Last Friday, March 10, Legarda called on the concerned Senate committee, with the cooperation of all government agencies, to immediately conduct an inquiry on the environmental, health, and tourism impacts of the oil spill that left a widespread problem to many locals in the area.
On March 13, she filed Senate Resolution No. 540, directing the appropriate committee to conduct the inquiry.