Fishing community in Zambales still reeling from oil spill

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The oil leak from a Tanzanian-registered vessel last week in Botolan, Zambales has affected the livelihood of residents in a fishing community in the town.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 15) — The oil leak from a Tanzanian-registered vessel last week in Botolan, Zambales has affected the livelihood of residents in a fishing community in the town.

Around 300 families or 90% of Barangay Bangan rely on fishing, most of them catching krills to make "alamang."

But since the incident on May 8, many residents in the area have not been able to catch fish. Some of them were even required to travel to nearby towns to fish in the past week, as their catch near the Botolan shores reeks of oil.

"Ang alamang kasi nahuhuli sa ibabaw e hindi sa ilalim. ... Ang alamang 'pag hinuli tapos amoy langis, amoy diesel hindi na pwede so sayang lang," Barangay Captain Celso Dagsaan told CNN Philippines.

[Translation: Krills are caught near the water surface. If they smell like oil or diesel, it's not acceptable anymore so it's such a waste.]

While the spill has already been contained, the residents still waiting for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to give a go signal, indicating that fishing in the area is already safe.

Dagsaan also worries about the possible effects of the oil leakage on their health.

"Masang-sang ang amoy unang araw e kasi malakas hangin ... meron ding perwisyo. Hindi rin namin alam epekto ng kabataan na nakaamoy ng ano. Hindi on the spot magkakaron ng karamdaman ng mga bata, minsan sa huli," he said.

[Translation: The smell is horrible. It's the first day and the wind is strong, which is a hassle. We don't know how being exposed to the smell affects children. Exposure-related ailments don't happen on the spot. They may appear at a much later time.]

DENR Central Luzon Regional Executive Director Kit Morales said the vessel, which is registered in the Republic of Tanzania, has been in Botolan since March 30. Its last port of call is in Singapore. Eight of its crew, including the captain, are Chinese nationals.

Dagsaan said the barangay discovered the oil spill when a crew member asked for their help when the vessel's stern ran aground.

"N'ung lumaki ang alon bigla 'yung likuran ng dregder lumubog ang hulihan kaya ang crew nag-report po sa barangay. Kaya ginawa ko nag-report ako sa MDRRMO (Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office) bago sa DENR para sila may knowledge para inspeksyunin ang tumagas langis at krudo," he said.

[Translation: The crew reported to the village that a huge wave caused the back of the dredger to sink. That's why I reported to the MDRRMO before the DENR so they can inspect the oil spill.]

Residents said some of the Chinese crews also go to the town sometimes to buy supplies.

Dagsaan said the vessel has been near their area for a month now. He added there are also Filipino crews on board. One of them told him, they are waiting for the approval of permit to dredge Bucao River under a Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) project. CNN Philippines has yet to verify if the vessel is involved in any DPWH project.

"I-dredge para raw, kasi project ng DPWH 'yan sa DPWH daw manggagling ang permit ... i- dredge para flow ng tubig mula Bucao tuloy-tuloy na," he said, adding that they want the vessel to leave.

[Translation: They will still dredge it because it's a DPWH project and it's the department that will issue the permit to dredge for the continuous flow of water from Bucao.]

Morales said the department eyes to remove the vessel on Thursday afternoon.