BACOLOD CITY – A legislator from Negros Occidental province has proposed a measure seeking to strengthen the regulation of ships in the country to prevent oil spills and the discharge of harmful substances into the sea.
In a House Bill (HB) 7515 filed on Wednesday afternoon, Third District Representative Jose Francisco Benitez said there is a need for strict enforcement of the regulations under the 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and its 1978 Protocol, or MARPOL 73/78 signed by the Philippines in 2001.
"An implementing legislation is long overdue. We must keep our commitment to international law, and perform our responsibility to protect the environment," Benitez said in a statement on Thursday.
On Feb. 28, the M/T Princess Empress sank off the coast of Naujan town in Oriental Mindoro province, resulting in the spillage of industrial oil, affecting residents and disrupting livelihood in the area as well as neighboring island localities in Western Visayas.
“We cannot let another oil spill happen again. Its damage to the marine environment is just too much. It is impossible to express the negative impact to livelihoods and marine ecosystems in monetary terms,” Benitez added.
He pointed out the proposed measure is crucial in protecting marine wealth and promoting the blue economy to ensure the sustainable development of marine resources.
HB 7515 seeks to empower the Maritime Industry Authority to strictly enforce shipbuilding standards and ensure that ships are constructed and equipped with materials and apparatus to prevent the discharge or emission of oil, sewage, garbage and other harmful substances and pollutants into Philippine seas.
Also, it mandates the Philippine Coast Guard to apprehend and detain ships for violations of these regulations.
Moreover, the bill imposes fines of up to PHP10 million on ship owners for violations, and proceeds from penalties will be used for clean-up and containment of spilled or leaked substances.
In the island municipality of Caluya, Antique province alone, continuous cleanup operations have already collected at least 3,100 liters of oily water, and 431 sacks and 103 bags of oily waste. (PNA)