MARINE researchers from the University of the Philippines (UP) have detected a potential oil slick near Coron, Palawan province southwest of the capital, more than a month after a fuel tanker sank off the waters of Oriental Mindoro and caused an oil spill. 

There were possible oil slicks 12 kilometers off Coron, the UP Marine Science Institute said in an April 3 bulletin, citing a satellite image from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration taken on April 2. 

“The slicks seen measured at about 19 kilometers in length and about 3 km in width,” it said, noting that winds were weak when the image was taken,” making it highly possible for thicker slicks to form due to less breakage from calmer waves.” 

It was not known whether the slicks had come from the sunken tanker, MT Princess Empress in Mindoro, the institute said. 

On Wednesday, Coron Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office chief Fernando Lopez said local authorities had not monitored any traces of oil in their waters. 

“We have not seen any oil spill or oil slick here in Coron,” he told ABS-CBN Teleradyo in Filipino. “We went to the area suspected of having an oil spill, which is about 12 kilometers away from the shoreline, but the sea was good.” 

He said rough waves could have made it difficult for them to spot the oil slick. 

The local government had sought an aerial survey of the area to validate the report, he said, adding that Coron authorities have prepared spill booms in case the oil spill reaches their town. 

Coron, one of the country’s top tourist destinations, is known for World War II-era wrecks that are popular with divers, and its limestone karst landscape. 

The tanker was carrying 800,000 liters of industrial oil when it sank off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro on Feb. 28. The Philippine Coast Guard with the help of international experts was still conducting clean-up operations. 

On Wednesday morning, a Korean ship arrived at the port of Manila, unloading 20 tons of sorbent pads and snares, 1,000 meters of solid flotation curtain boom and 2,000 sets of personal protective equipment. 

“The supplies will be sent to the affected region promptly,” the South Korean Embassy in Manila said in a statement. 

Four experts from the Korea Coast Guard’s emergency response team and consul and staff members of the Korean Embassy had joined forces on March 28 by providing technical support for operating response equipment in coordination with the Philippine and US coast guards. 

“During their five-day operation in affected areas in Mindoro, the Korean team shared their expertise to address the oil spill, as well as assisted the affected residents with aid supplies including drinking water and safety guidelines,” the embassy said. – Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza