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DENR bares recovery plan for oil spill-affected areas

April 27, 2023 Cory Martinez 169 views

A “HARMONIZED” recovery plan for areas in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan) and Western Visayas regions affected by the oil spill from MT Princess Empress that sank in the waters of Oriental Mindoro almost two months ago has been formulated to address the incident’s intersecting impacts to the people, environment, tourism and the local economy.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) spearheaded the inter-agency discussion held recently at DENR central office in Quezon City where various national government agencies attended.

In leading discussion, DENR Secretary Antonia Loyzaga said the recovery plan must be consistent with the “whole-of-government” approach espoused by the Marcos Jr. administration in responding to the oil spill disaster.

“We have a convergence framework where we look at each of our mandates, at the point of how we can support the building of resilience for inclusive and sustainable activities,” Loyzaga said.

Loyzaga added that the recovery plan will “not only look at bouncing back, but bouncing forward” as it must guarantee the resiliency of communities and ecosystems.

The activity was co-headed by Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco and Defense Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno, who serves as the executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and administrator of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).

In her opening remarks, Frasco reported that over 1,600 workers dependent on tourism had already been deprived of their livelihood due to the oil spill.

She expressed full support for a “cohesive” approach to tourism development that is sustainable and regenerative.

With the OCD as one of the main agencies leading the recovery efforts, Nepomuceno recognized that a “scientific approach” is crucial in these initiatives, thus, the NDRRMC and OCD will seek more accurate guidance from science-based agencies, such as the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) whose representative was also present in the activity.

Meanwhile, Senior Ecosystems Management Specialist Jhorace Tupas of the DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau presented the latest results of the Rapid Biodiversity Assessments in Oriental Mindoro and Palawan for Mimaropa and Semirara Island in Caluya, Antique for Western Visayas, indicating potential threats to marine life and mangrove ecosystem.

Tupas also presented the initial economic value of coastal and marine ecosystems within the affected provinces. Other agencies suggested that this valuation is a possible area of collaboration for data enrichment done through the inclusion of other sectors and data sharing.

Loyzaga explained that these information are proven to be vital, especially for the ongoing case build-up by the Department of Justice (DOJ), which during the discussion underscored the importance of handling the collected pieces of evidence and the documents that need to be preserved, as these will be used in pursuit of legal remedies.

Among the suggestions for consideration in the recovery plan are the conduct of a post-disaster needs assessment to ensure an effective, efficient, and relevant recovery plan with trained people to assess the damage and loss, and determination of accurate fund requirements and sources, not just for the recovery plan but also for rehabilitation.

Other recommendations include the need to improve communication protocols to translate scientific information into clear, accurate, and simple information for the public; ensuring learning continuity vis-à-vis health status of learners and teachers; setting of specific indicators for normalcy for different sectors such as fisherfolk and tourists; and addressing the mental health of affected individuals.

Other agencies represented were the Department of Education (DepEd), the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

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