Communities in Mindoro employ art to ‘memorialize’ their struggle against oil spill

February 28, 2024

Residents and various organizations in Mindoro, south of Manila, marked the oil spill’s first year with the unveiling of a mural dedicated to environmental protection and the preservation of the Verde Island Passage (VIP) on Feb. 28.

AG Saño, a renowned Filipino artist and environmental activist, designed the mural in collaboration with local art communities and youth groups. 

Bishop Moises Cuevas of Mindoro led the celebration of the Holy Eucharist which was followed by a protest mobilization. 

The groups also unveiled the design of a commemorative marker that is set to be built in Pola town that “will memorialize the unwavering spirit of the people of Mindoro in the face of the oil spill, said Father Edwin Gariguez, lead Convenor of Protect VIP.

“This will be a permanent reminder of what the polluters owe to the communities and what the government must do in protecting the Verde Island Passage,” he said. 

The MT Princess Empress sank on February 28 off the coast of Oriental Mindoro province’s Naujan town, after it reportedly experienced problems with its engine.

The incident has resulted in the spillage of thick industrial oil, posing health hazards to residents and disrupting the livelihood of fishermen as well as owners of resorts and other business establishments.

Some 173,000 people in 163 villages have been affected by the massive spill. In Pola, about 80 percent of the town’s 35,000 people “rely on the ocean for their livelihood,” said Pola Mayor Jennifer Cruz.

“Our fight does not end today and we will not cease to fight until we see a clear path towards its recovery, which would only be possible if justice is served, polluters are held accountable, and communities are properly compensated,” said Fr. Gariguez.

Gerry Arances, executive director of the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, said, “The marine life and the people who depend on the Verde Island Passage deserve nothing less than 41.2 billion, the estimated damage caused by the oil spill.” 

Arnces expressed hope that the number “serves as a guidepost” for the government and the agencies to enact and implement “tougher policies in protecting our waters and ensuring that no polluter walks free from their accountability”.  

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