Caritas Philippines will be sending help to communities affected by the ongoing oil spill in Mindoro province.
The Catholic Church’s social action arm has committed to support 250 affected families with food packs, said Father Edwin Gariguez, social action director of the Diocesan Social Action Office in Oriental Mindoro.
Earlier, the Lipa Archdiocesan Social Action Commission and the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development announced that it will also send food items and emergency assistance.
Father Gariguez said the agency’s stand-by relief goods will be temporarily stored in the St. Francis of Assisi Quasi Parish for distribution “once the beneficiaries list has been finalized” and an operation plan has been set up.
The priest, who is also lead convenor of the group Protect the Verde Island Passage, called on the government to “immediately contain” the oil spill.
In a statement, Father Gariguez estimated that over 36,000 hectares of mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses will potentially be affected by the oil spill.
“We are gravely concerned for impacted communities,” said Father Gariguez. He added that at least 18,000 fishermen in the province alone have been robbed of their livelihood.
The priest said that injustice suffered by communities from the “terrible incident” is further amplified by the health impacts they are likely to experience.
“Due to the toxicity of oil, spills in the past had been known to cause severe health problems such as respiratory problems, heart damage, stunted growth, immune system effects and even death among exposed communities,” he said.
As it sailed into rough seas off Naujan in Mindoro, the Princess Empress sank with its cargo of 800,000 liters (210,000 gallons) of industrial fuel oil.
Another vessel rescued the 20 crew members on board, but the Princess Empress leaked some of its cargo into the sea after initially spilling diesel fuel which had been powering the vessel, the Philippine Coast Guard said.