JAPAN is sending a disaster relief expert team to the Philippines to help in the removal of the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro, Japanese Ambassador to Manila Koshikawa Kazuhiko said.
Koshikawa made the announcement on Twitter on Wednesday.
"In coordination with the Philippine government, Japan will send a disaster relief expert team on oil removal and control to support on-going efforts in response to the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro," he said.
"JCG oil control experts are on the way! We are one with you in these trying times," Koshikawa said.
Sen. Francis Tolentino on Monday sought an "in-depth assessment" on the damage brought by the oil spill on February 28 in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.
The senator voiced concern that the incident threatened the lives of fisherfolk, marine biodiversity and tourism "as it headed towards the famous beaches of the world-renowned Boracay Island."
Tolentino said that the extent of the oil spill coming from motor tanker M/T Princess Empress has already reached major fishing areas.
He said it "continues to spread to pristine fishing breeding grounds, threatening the Verde Island Passage, which is considered the world's 'Center of the Center of Marine Shorefish Biodiversity' and along Western Visayas where Boracay Island is situated."
Senate President Pro-Tempore Loren Legarda, Senate Majority Floor Leader Emmanuel Joel Villanueva, and Senators Cynthia Villar and Pilar Juliana "Pia" Cayetano, echoed Tolentino's call for an in-depth assessment of the oil spill.
Authorities at present continue to race against time in containing the 800,000-liter that spilled out from the sunken oil tanker. As of Monday afternoon, 76 coastal villages across nine towns in Oriental Mindoro have been placed under the state of calamity.
"Because the passageway from Mindoro to Romblon via the Verde Island Passage, it would mostly affect Oriental Mindoro and perhaps Boracay," said Tolentino.
"Today, 18,000 fishermen lost their livelihood. If we fail to contain the oil spill, it will affect thousands more," the senator added.
Tolentino expressed concern that the Mindoro oil spill incident would be "worse than" the 2006 tragedy when M/T Solar-1 sank off the coast of Guimaras, which carried 2.1 million liters of bunker fuel.
He said that the current oil spill trajectory model by marine experts projected that approximately 20,000 hectares of coral reef, 9,900 hectares of mangroves, 6,000 hectares of seagrass may be affected, and the oil spill may also potentially reach as far as the shores of Palawan.
"This is more far reaching than the damage caused by M/T Solar-1," Tolentino said in his privilege speech.
The 2006 Guimaras incident had affected 1,500 hectares of the local ecosystem of mangroves, seagrass, and coral reefs, as well as affecting the livelihood of 20,000 fishermen, and required a long period of rehabilitation.
"The projection right now coming from the local PDRRMO (Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office) of Oriental Mindoro is that more than 10,000 families are already affected by the oil spill alone," Tolentino said.
"But this is an evolving story. As days, as hours pass by, we will have additional reports perhaps of a greater damage and I think the estimate right now is that it would pass the Guimaras oil spill," he added.