Since the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro two months ago, the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) has been monitoring the situation in affected fishing areas. Water and fish samples are regularly collected and tested for presence of oil and grease and harmful chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), respectively, to determine if fish and other marine organisms are safe for public consumption and if fishing grounds should be reopened. This is important to ensure the safety of the consuming public and of the fisherfolk against harmful fuel in the affected areas.
Traces of oil were observed during onsite monitoring of sea surface on Clusters 2 (Pola) and 3 (Pinamalayan, Gloria, Bansud) during sampling. Meanwhile, water samples collected last April 24 showed that oil and grease remained in affected areas but these are still within the standard (< 3.0 mg/L) set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for Class SC waters i.e. Fishery Water Class and Recreational Water Class that are suited for boating and fishing activities, as well as fish propagation intended for commercial and sustenance purposes. PAHs, on the other hand, were no longer detected in most of the fish samples (demersal/shellfish/crabs and pelagic) collected last April 17, except for pelagic fish samples from Clusters 3 (Pinamalayan, Gloria, Bansud), 4 (Bongabong, Roxas, Mansalay, Bulalacao), and 5 (Puerto Galera, Baco, San Teodoro). These pelagic fish samples still contained minimal levels of less toxic PAHs, but the most toxic ones were no longer detected. Generally, the recent analyses showed lower PAH levels compared to the previous test results.
In light of the recent analyses and other onsite observations, the DA-BFAR still recommends keeping the fishing ban in Clusters 1 (Calapan, Naujan), 2 (Pola), and 3 (Pinamalayan, Gloria, Bansud) due to the risk of contamination from traces of oil that have yet to be removed from the area.
Meanwhile, the fishing waters in Clusters 4 (Bongabong, Roxas, Mansalay, Bulalacao) and 5 (Puerto Galera, Baco, San Teodoro) were found to be within acceptable standards for fishing activities. The provincial government of Mindoro may consider the resumption of fishing activities in the said municipalities.
The DA-BFAR will continue monitoring oil spill-hit areas for a time-series observation, which will be the basis of its recommendations for concerned government agencies and local government offices.
To help municipal fisherfolk affected by the imposition of fishing bans, 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.
Moreover, the DA-BFAR is eyeing to provide over Php117.86 million worth of emergency and relief assistance, early recovery efforts, and mid-to-long term recovery aid to oil spill-hit areas.
Of these, Php4.4 million was already spent for post-harvest training for various fisherfolk associations and cooperatives and over Php1.5 million was utilized for food assistance to more than 5,000 affected fisherfolk in MIMAROPA. Millions-worth of funds was also allocated for the ongoing grant and capacity building efforts 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.
Supplementary interventions are in the pipeline, including the grant of additional FRP boats, fish aggregating devices, aquaculture feed mill projects, bangus fry, tilapia fingerlings, and fish cages to areas affected by the oil spill.