30 March 2023

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 fish and other seafood in these areas are safe for public consumption and if fishing bans should be lifted by the local government units (LGUs) concerned.

Water samples collected and analyzed from the affected municipalities of Oriental Mindoro (Bansud, Bongabong, Bulalacao, Calapan, Gloria, Mansalay, Naujan, Pinamalayan, Pola, and Roxas) and Caluya, Antique on March 9 to 12 showed minimal levels of oil and grease, within the standard stated by the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources in Administrative Order 2016-08 for fishing areas (< 3.0 mg/L oil and grease).
Meanwhile, fish samples collected and analyzed from the same areas on March 4 to 5 showed low-level contaminants or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). PAH, which is harmful to humans and other living organisms, may accumulate in the flesh of marine organisms over time.
The results were consistent with the findings of the DA-BFAR in its first batch of analyses, that is, minimal amounts of oil and grease and PAH levels were present in fish and seafood from the aforementioned areas. However, the Bureau recommends keeping fishing bans in these municipalities since the initial analyses are not yet conclusive evidence as far as food safety is concerned. These samples were collected during the early days of March, making the current situation unknown due to the possibility that the spill had spread further due to ocean current and wind direction, and more PAHs may have accumulated in marine organisms.
The DA-BFAR continuously analyzes and monitors the area to establish time-series results on the impact of the oil spill with regard to food safety. Succeeding analyses should be considered to ensure seafood is safe for public consumption. Rest assured that the Bureau is fast-tracking the laboratory analyses without compromising the accuracy of data, which serves as the basis for its recommendations. Findings and recommendations will be shared to the public and concerned government offices as soon as data becomes available.
Moreover, the DA-BFAR notes that the Bureau has been assisting LGUs, especially the provincial government of Oriental Mindoro, in terms of relief and livelihood aid since the onset of the oil spill. To date, the Bureau has already allocated Php4.4 million-worth of livelihood assistance in the form of post-harvest technology packages which will benefit 10 fisherfolk associations and cooperatives or 689 families. About Php 1.5 million was also earmarked for the provision of food assistance to 5,000 affected fisherfolk in MIMAROPA, while Php580,500 was spent to help displaced fishing groups in Western Visayas. In addition, the Bureau has deployed monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) vessels, as well as PPE sets and other materials for clean-up activities. Additional interventions are also being prepositioned based on rehabilitation proposals from the oil spill-hit areas.