Philippine authorities said they were working yesterday to contain a huge diesel spill that shut down parts of Manila Bay’s vital fishing industry.
Ryan Santos, a district official at Rosario, one of the hard-hit coastal villages, said the fuel polluting the water had dissipated noticeably a day after it was released, but its pungent stench remained.
“A few local fishermen are putting to sea again, but have to go much further out to reach the fish,” Santos said by telephone.
“They are complaining that the slick is fouling up their boat hulls and nets,” he added.
Local officials said fish and other marine life floated up dead and some residents fell sick from the fumes after an estimated 500,000 liters of fuel cast a slick across 20km of coastline near the capital, Manila, starting on Thursday.
The leak, which by Friday had covered a 300m2 area, had likely originated from an underwater pipe owned by oil company Petron Corp, or from a pipeline that was connected from the pipe to a tanker that unloaded the diesel at the bay’s Cavite Terminal on Thursday, Commodore Joel Garcia said.
The bay is the country’s most important waterway in a region where about 30 million people, nearly one-third of the Philippines’ population, live.
Petron struck a deal with Manila earlier yesterday for both sides to deploy more oil containment booms and crews to speed up the cleanup, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said.
“It has been mostly contained... Our latest feedback is that some of the slick is evaporating the natural way under the heat of the sun,” he said.
Jose Ricafrente, mayor of Rosario, where the depot is located, said he declared a state of emergency to speed up assistance to fishermen and their families. Ricafrente said the spill jeopardized the livelihoods of 40,000 people who depend on the town’s fishing industry.
Santos said about 100 fishermen who were temporarily put out of work were helping gather the spilt fuel from the water yesterday.
The fuel is put into water bottles which are handed over to village officials in exchange for claim stubs that entitled them to emergency food rations from the Philippine Ministry of Social Welfare, he said.