February 29, 2024

Gov’t agencies map out plans for oil-spill hit areas’ rehab

By Jun Talusan

DIFFERENT government agencies met together for a harmonized recovery plan in areas affected by the oil spill  brought by the sinking of MT Princess Empress in the waters off Oriental Mindoro two months ago.

Led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), representatives of the different departments converged and discussed measures to address the oil spill’s interacting impacts to the people, environment, tourism and the local economy of MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) and Oriental Mindoro areas.

The meeting held at the Central Office in Quezon City focused on the overall goal, which is for the good of the affected residents.

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

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

The DENR chief said the recovery plan should “not only look at bouncing back, but bouncing forward” as it must guarantee resiliency of communities and ecosystems.

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

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 on tourism development that is sustainable and regenerative.

“With the OCD as one of the main agencies leading the recovery efforts, 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,” Nepomuceno said.

Among the suggestions for consideration in the recovery plan are the conduct of a post-disaster that needs assessment to ensure 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 mental health of affected individuals.