Manila, Mar 6 (EFE).- Philippines authorities fear that the oil spill from a tanker that sunk last week, and which has already reached several islands in the center of the archipelago, may reach the island of Boracay, the country’s most important tourist destination.
The MT Princess Empress sunk last Tuesday off the coast of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro province, carrying bout 800,000 liters of industrial oil.
“If the oil reaches Boracay, the consequences for the island are unpredictable. Nobody can predict now how long tourism would take to recover,” an employee of the Visayas regional office of the Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DOT), who preferred to remain anonymous, told EFE.
At the weekend, oil from the slick, which is about 25 kilometers long and 300-500 meters wide, reached one of the islands of Caluya, Antique province, about 33 kilometers from Boracay, an island ringed by fine white-sand beaches that attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year.
The University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute, which is studying areas of high environmental value impacted by the spill, estimates that some 20,000 hectares of coral reefs, 9,900 ha of mangroves and 6,000 ha of seagrass may be affected.
The institute said that the oil spill is moving south, and has already reached the north of Palawan, another tourism jewel famous for the municipality of El Nido.
The MT Princess, a Philippine-flagged cargo ship built in 2022, capsized after it experienced engine problems and began to drift due to rough seas as it headed to the port of Iloilo from Bataan on Tuesday. All 20 crew were rescued by a foreign vessel.
Authorities on Monday said they had found the exact location of the sunken freighter, according to local media, and two firms have been hired by the vessel’s owners to help stem the leak and for cleanup tasks.
The government is considering asking Japan for help to contain the spill, the state news agency reported on Saturday. EFE