ON March 16, 2023, some two weeks after the ‘converted’ oil tanker, ‘M/T Princess Empress’ sunk off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, the damage has become so extensive that the ensuing oil spill resulted to another environmental disaster not only in the island provinces of Mindoro and Romblon but thus far, even to the provinces of Antique and Palawan.
According to official estimates, on a 40-kilometer radius, approximately 591 hectares of coral reefs, 1,626 hectares of mangroves, and 362 hectares of seagrass or seaweeds have been affected while 21 marine protected areas in Mindoro and Marinduque were also affected plus some 24,000 hectares of coral reefs.
The above is not to mention the dire and direct effect to the livelihood of an estimated 147,300 residents affected by this man-made disaster and the damage to more than 60 tourist destinations, thereby pushing back the government’s tourism campaign for at least a year, depending on how fast—and successful— the result of the ongoing cleanup would be.
And yet, on that day, March 16, the PCG, instead of focusing all its attention on the problem that has resulted principally from its own negligence of ensuring that all sea-borne vessels are fit to sail the seas, decided to go instead to the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) with a bunch of mainstream media on board.
Obviously, the trip to the KIG is another conscious effort by the PGG to hype up our territorial dispute with China over the issue of our questionable ‘sovereignty’ in the area. “Questionable” because the territorial boundaries there involved not only the Philippines and China but, we should not forget, Vietnam, Brunei and even Malaysia, which is using our island of Sabah (North Borneo) that it continues to occupy to also stake a claim in that portion of the South China Sea.
The question is: what really are the “priorities” of the PCG in this time of distress for many of our countrymen affected by the oil spill, a disaster that we have to stress here, the PCG must also take the blame and responsibility?
What is more important at this point? To heighten our differences with China so that the PCG can earn another path in the back and praises from the “bosses” at the United States Embassy?
Or was it attending to the more urgent needs of our affected countrymen?
Why, instead of hastening the solution of the problem at hand, the PCG is more interested in pursuing a trip that has no other value than a cheap media stunt that would not result to the relief of our suffering countrymen and the rehabilitation of our damaged environment?
But then, that useless but provocative trip to the KIG is also another way for the PCG to camouflage its culpability in the oil spill in Mindoro.
Why? Because as has been noted, the PCG, along with the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), is principally responsible in the enforcement of our laws in our territorial waters. And this includes ensuring that all sea-borne vessels are safe and in compliance with the standards for each type of vessel.
If this was the other reason for that useless trip to the KIG, then we are sorry to say that the PCG also failed in the effort.
For glaringly, it is showing that like our Armed Forces, the PCG is also one government agency that makes its priorities based on what US Imperialism wants— and the interest of the affected Pinoys and our environment be damned.