26 April 2023
The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) has been monitoring the situation in fishing areas affected by the oil spill. It has also been evaluating contaminant levels in seafood samples from these areas to determine if fish, seaweeds, and other marine organisms are safe for public consumption and if fishing grounds placed under fishing bans should be reopened.
Results of oil and grease analysis in water samples collected from affected areas in Oriental Mindoro on April 10 showed significant increases in amounts from previous analyses, albeit still within the standard for oil and grease of < 3.0 mg/L of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) based on water classification and use.
Low-level polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were likewise detected in all fish samples from Oriental Mindoro collected on April 3. PAH accumulation was observed in samples collected from the municipalities of Bongabong and San Teodoro; however, there is currently no sufficient data showing an increasing trend. Further tests will be taken to gather needed time-series data and confirm if accumulation is taking place in marine organisms collected from the province.
In light of these developments, the DA-BFAR recommends keeping fishing bans in oil spill-hit municipalities in Oriental Mindoro since the analyses are not yet conclusive evidence as far as food safety is concerned.
To help affected municipal fisherfolk get back to their livelihoods, the DA-BFAR has recommended alternative fishing grounds, in coordination with the Department of the Interior and Local Government. These are the municipal waters of Paluan, Abra de Ilog, San
Jose, and Magsaysay in Occidental Mindoro; Boac and Gasan in Marinduque; and Concepcion in Romblon. Subsequently, the DA-BFAR will provide them with fuel subsidies as additional assistance.
All water samples collected from Caluya, Antique on March 28 passed the DENR standard for oil and grease of < 3.0 mg/L.
Fish samples collected from the province on April 11 showed no signs of oil tainting through organoleptic analyses. On the other hand, signs of oil tainting were observed on shellfish samples. Seaweed samples previously subjected to laboratory analysis also contained traces of PAHs. Further laboratory testing is currently being conducted, results of which will be shared once available. No new sightings of the oil spill have been reported since March 4.
Following the results of the analyses and the current situation, the DA-BFAR, through its regional office in Western Visayas, formulated activity- and site-specific recommendations, that is, allowing fishing activities outside the reef zone of affected
areas of Sitio Sabang, Barangay Tinogboc, Sitio Sigayan, Sitio Toong, Barangay Semirara, Sitio Liwagao, Barangay Sibolo and adjacent deeper waters. However, the Bureau also recommends prohibiting shellfish gathering and seaweed harvesting in affected areas since these organisms may have greater exposure to oil spill contaminants.
Effective April 12, 2023, the municipal government of Caluya, Antique has allowed regulated fishing activities within the vicinity of Semirara Island, Nagubat Island, and Liwagao Island, such that:
1. No fishing and collecting of shells shall be done in the shoreline and shallow areas of Sitio Sabang, Sitio Toong, Sitio Sigayan and Sitio Liwagao.
2. Fish catch shall be reported to the barangay using the form on the record of fish catch issued by the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist.
3. The barangay shall closely monitor the fishing activities of its residents in coordination and collaboration of their respective associations.
4. In the event when contamination exists on fish catch, fishing activities shall be temporarily canceled until such time that the areas identified are declared safe for fishing.
Rest assured that the DA-BFAR will remain steadfast in its commitment to provide science-based recommendations for concerned government agencies and LGUs through continuous sample collection and analyses of seafood from affected areas. The Bureau is also fast-tracking the laboratory analyses without compromising the accuracy of data. Findings and recommendations will be shared to the public and concerned government offices as soon as data becomes available.
The Bureau also provides continuous support to affected fishing communities. In total, the Bureau has so far spent Php22 million for livelihood and relief assistance. Of these, Php4.4 million was allocated for livelihood assistance for 10 fisherfolk associations and cooperatives or 689 families; over Php1.5 million was utilized for food assistance to more than 5,000 affected fisherfolk in MIMAROPA; and Php 580,500 was spent for food assistance to displaced fishing groups in Western Visayas. Millions-worth of funds was also allocated for the grant of fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) boats with marine engines to affected fisherfolk in Oriental Mindoro. 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 funding will be used for supplementary interventions as the DA-BFAR eyes to provide more FRP boats, fish aggregating devices, aquaculture feed mill projects, bangus fry, tilapia fingerlings, fish cages, and PPE sets for clean-up activities to areas affected by the oil spill.