The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) has been monitoring the situation in areas affected by the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro. It has also been evaluating contaminant levels in water and fishery resources to determine if seafood is safe for public consumption and if fishing bans should be imposed or lifted by the local government units (LGUs) concerned.

The DA-BFAR collected water samples from different sampling sites on March 3-14, 2023. During the same period, the Bureau collected fish samples from the municipalities of Naujan, Pola, Pinamalayan, Bansud, Gloria, Roxas, Mansalay, Bongabong, and Bulalacao in Oriental Mindoro. These two types of samples were both analyzed within 10 days from the sample collection, based on the standard turnaround period for fish sample analysis.
Preliminary findings showed that traces of petroleum products, particularly oil and grease, were detected in water samples — equivalent to <5 mg/L. The figure is within the standard of 3 mg/L to 5 mg/L set by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources in Administrative Order 2016-08. The DA-BFAR likewise found low-level contaminants or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in the fish samples. PAH, which is harmful to humans and other living organisms, may accumulate in the flesh of fish over time.

The results of the analyses are not yet conclusive as far as food safety is concerned. Further sampling and analyses are being conducted to establish time-series results on the effect of the oil spill on fish concerning food safety, taking into account the magnitude of the oil spill which has reached neighboring areas like Caluya, Antique and some municipalities of Palawan.

Thus, the Bureau will continuously analyze water and fish samples in affected areas to monitor the possible spread of contamination and determine the extent of damage caused by the oil spill in the fishery sector. Results will be shared with the public as soon as data becomes available.

In the meantime, the DA-BFAR recommends the continuous suspension of fishing activities in the aforementioned areas in Oriental Mindoro for public safety. The Bureau advises LGUs concerned to heed this science-based recommendation.

Separate tests on water and fish samples are being conducted in Caluya, Antique, which has also declared a fishing ban. The DA-BFAR will present its recommendation to the Caluya LGU upon the release of test results.

The DA-BFAR has already allocated an initial budget of Php6.4 million for livelihood and relief assistance to aid fisherfolk and their families cope with the loss of income due to fishing bans. The amount includes the Php1.5 million worth of food packs provided by the DA-BFAR through its regional office in MIMAROPA, which benefitted 5,000 oil spill-hit families in Oriental Mindoro. Additional funding is also being prepositioned based on rehabilitation proposals from the affected areas.

Rest assured that the DA-BFAR has been working with concerned national government agencies and LGUs to ensure public safety and address the concerns of over 19,000 affected fisherfolk.