The incident involving MV Super Ferry 9 hogged the headlines in the media placing PCG once again in the limelight. More or less 250MT of oil on board at the time of the incident is worrisome from our perspective. Our recommendation caused the deployment of air and floating assets to monitor the daily situation at the sinking site. On board the PCG TB Habagat 271, BRP Corregidor AE-891 and BRP Ilocos Norte SAR 3501 were Oil Spill Response Teams (OSRT) and the Science & Technical Team (STT) with necessary containment, recovery, mitigation and water quality equipment and sampling kits.
This also marks the first time that the National Strike Team (NST) of MEPCOM was deployed to serve as technical adviser to the Commander, CGD South Western Mindanao simultaneously feeding important information and images to the Resource Management and Research and Development Center (MERMRDC) for an immediate assessment of the situation. Prior to this deployment, we have known the fate of oil on board MV SF9 with the given condition, and projected the oil surface trajectory in case of spill and impact of the spill on land, as well. Corollary to this, the OSRT would carry out information drive to the Local Government Units (LGU) covered by the impact belt. This would make the whole scenario covered by preventive and active measures. The monitoring and calibrated response operations are still ongoing.
While everyone's interest was on the SF9 incident, a foreign vessel, MV Hera, also sank on 07 September 2009 about 10NM NW off Helaban Isl., Dolores, Eastern Samar, while sailing to South Korea with 140MT and 16MT of oil on board. We have initially assessed on the fate of oil and its projected trajectory in case it leaks out. Active surveillance on the site was recommended. But before the two incidents, MT Sheryl Ann ran aground 100 meters off Tangkaan Pt., Padre Burgos, Maasin, Southern Leyte on 29 August 2009. She had on board 230,000 liters of oil (ADO).
On 14 September 2009, the threat to the environment was significantly reduced when the FO on board was removed while she was safely towed to the pier without untoward incident.
Yet, another incident involving leaking nitric acid from an ISO tank on 20 July 2009 was successfully responded to by our HNS Response Team (HNSRT) at the Asian Terminals Inc., (ATI), South Harbor, Manila It also provided technical advice to the cargo handler and ATI management on the proper disposition of the cargo.
Technology-Based & Technology-Driven Geographical Information System (GIS) is software that now allows us to capture, store, analyze and present data that is linked to a particular location. It serves as an effective and important planning tool as it allows user to interpret data and visualize them to reveal relationships, pattern and trends. Although on a limited scale, it is now helping us integrate data with spatial component for planning purposes. GIS has evolved to become more than just an information gadget. Acquired 2 years ago with just a basic training that came along with it, it is now 30% in progress. Once the GIS is in place, it will become an indispensable aid especially for oil spill management planning, and even in the case of chemical spill.
For the GIS to go mainstream however, we need to train and develop our personnel to become technically-adept to the system. Once set up, this will help response managers in coming up with strategies and save PCG from unnecessary costs of excessive employment and deployment of highly valuable resources due to lack of scientific data. At present, GIS is still a niche segment. Meantime, it is aiding MEPCOM to map its oil trajectory projection and enable us to point out sensitive areas for priority protection thus, providing sound technical advices to operational Commanders and responders.
Outreach Program: Training LGUs. A residual support to the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan NOSCP), an extensive outreach program for Local Government Units benefitted 5 regions. Mobile Training Team (MTT) conducted training in Bicol (Pasacao), South Eastern Mindanao (Davao), South Western Mindanao (Zamboanga), Central-Eastern Visayas (Tagbilaran City) and Palawan (Coron). The stimulus training, "LGU Oil Spill Awareness and Response Training Seminar", was attended by officials of LGUs, even national government agencies, the military, PNP and the private sector. The program also caused the publication of the "LGU Oil Spill Responders Handbook". This training is also an assessment of our existing capabilities to institutionalize best practices in providing assistance and training to sectors of society.
Regional Cooperation. The ASEAN-Oil Spill Response Action Plan (OSRAP) Strategy and Action Program (SAP) was drafted in Jakarta after the Workshop Session of the Focal Point meeting hosted by the Government of Indonesia from 8 to 12 June 2009 in partnership with the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Participants comprised of Government representatives from all ASEAN membercountries, except Laos, as well as observers from the regional and international oil industry and intergovernmental organizations, were invited by IMO and the Indonesian Government. The workshop considered a draft SAP for the revitalization and strengthening of the ASEAN-OSRAP developed by the IMO in response to the proposed project by Indonesia to the ASEAN Maritime Transport Working Group (MTWG). It can be recalled that the Philippine delegates to the ASEANOSPAR Management meeting in Langkawi, Malaysia in 2006 articulated the need to operationalize and revitalize the OSRAP as a result of the PCG response experience on the oil spill incident involving MT Solar 1. The draft SAP and the Workshop Report, including the outcomes of the discussion groups, will be submitted to the next meeting of ASEAN-OSRAP members in Brunei for consideration to include the proposal to expand membership of the OSRAP to all ASEAN member-countries.
Marpolex 09 "Balikpapan". This year's Marine Pollution Exercise (MARPOLEX) in Balikpapan, 2 ships participated, BRP Corregidor AE-891 and BRP Pampanga SAR-003. On board were 2 OSRTs and an STT for the off-shore oil containment & recovery operations and Environmental Damage Assessment. The Indonesian Coast Guard (ICG) hosted the MARPOLEX. The Japanese Coast Guard (JCG) brought with them Patrol Vessel "Mizuho" PLH 21 that played a major role in the SAR. Not to be outdone was ICG'S KN "Trisula", a MARPOL vessel that dominated the oil containment & recovery operations along with the Indonesian oil industry, the Indonesian Navy and other stakeholders. At the end of each day, the 3 heads of delegations hosted alternately a sumptuous dinner with matching cultural shows. The ceremonies during the opening and closing were well attended by high ranking local Indonesian Coast Guard, Navy & Police officials, not to mention the participating units of the 3 countries. For the first time in the history of MARPOLEX, the Malaysian government was invited as an observer to the exercise. The idea was brought forward by the Philippines in previous meetings and exercises with the Indonesian counterparts. MARPOLEX 09 "Balikpapan" was declared a success as a regional cooperation in case of oil spill.
MARPOL Prevention Initiatives. Efficient management, stable regulatory environment and consistent policies have become more important considerations in the performance of our functions. But policy implementation has to be synchronized with the times and developments in our economy, the maritime environment and legislations. In order to provide our enforcers with the legal framework and mechanisms, the need to revise and formulate secondary legislations in the form of Memorandum Circulars concerning marine pollution prevention has to be undertaken. Nearing completion is the revision of MC 01-05 (Revised Rules on Prevention, Containment, Abatement and Control of Oil Marine Pollution). Likewise, MC 07-05 (Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships) is also being revised as well. The more contentious issues are on the Rule Prohibiting the Dumping and Discharging of Waste and other Harmful Matters (MC 01-06).
A growing number of Companies are venturing in the oil exploration business, particularly on the western seaboard of the Philippines. Having this in mind, we find it imperative to exercise regulatory control over such facilities considering the risk it poses on the marine environment in case of a major blow out. Working on the provisions of MARPOL 73/78 wherein offshore fixed and floating facilities are defined as ships, we would want to ensure that subject facilities comply with the requirements of ships 400 GT and above, particularly that of the prohibition to discharge into the sea of oil and oily mixture, garbage, sewage and other noxious liquid and hazardous substances. Currently such requirements are included in existing PCG Memorandum Circulars. However, we believe that it is high time to integrate all regulatory policies and requirement for Mobile Offshore Drilling Units (MODUS), Floating Production, Storage and Offloading Facilities (FPSO), Floating Storage Units (FSU) and other fixed and floating structures at sea, into one issuance, thus, we have initiated the drafting of a policy to cover both pollution prevention and safety aspect of such operation.
Building On Success. MEPCOM should now build on the success of what it has accomplished and what it is doing; bringing its relevance to all PCG operational Commands, to our clientele and stakeholders, and strengthening the relationship it has build with our partners in the industry. Our past experiences serve as benchmark from which we want to make improvements, and the best way to show that is to compare what it is and what it should be, bearing in mind that it should be issue-based and issue-driven initiatives. In the recent past, we were busy building our capability and capacity, improving systems, regulations and our facilities. The result was dramatic. MEPCOM is now well ahead in almost all indicators of human and systems development.
Today, MEPCOM has been able to attain a higher level of development and significantly reduced frailties despite limitation on its resources. It has continuously mounted intensive training on oil spill management and expanded this to HNS capability build-up in order to provide services to the clientele and promote best practices within its units and with the industries it serves.