On the 25th of February, the motor tanker (MT) Princess Empress, while carrying
800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil cargo, departed from Manila to Iloilo. Midway through
the voyage, however, the vessel allegedly encountered a fatal issue with its engine
which resulted in its sinking in the rough seas off the northeast coast of Oriental
Mindoro on February 28, 2023.
A day after the vessel sank, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)made a
discovery of “black and thick” oil emitting a strong smell in the area close to where the
vessel sank – at Naujan, Oriental Mindoro. This insinuates that the 800,000-liter cargo of
the tanker vessel may have spilled onto the open sea, leaving locals to express their
The Norwegian Maritime Foundation of the Philippines, Inc. together with The
Royal Norwegian Embassy in Manila and the Norwegian Training Center contributed
by providing manpower for the coastal clean-ups in response to the catastrophe. The
manpower dispatched to assist the shorelines of the Municipality of Pola were the 29
Batch of NSA Cadets from the Lyceum of the Philippines University – Batangas who was
determined to accomplish the daunting, yet fruitful task at hand.
With that said, these are the cadets’ day-to-day operations as they display a
palette of determination and commitment through actions and where their endeavors
bear fruit to promote a green marine environment.
March 04, 2023 – Day 1: The operation started with the cadets departing at early dawn from the Lyceum International Maritime Academy in Batangas as they made their way towards the Province of Oriental Mindoro. Their journey began with a 3 hour trip via Ferry Santa Editha, Montenegro Lines to the Port of
Calapan in Mindoro. Along the voyage,
the NSA Cadets took a group with Engr.
Janu Reyes (TDO) to commemorate the
beginning of their eventful journey:
Upon safely arriving at the Port of
Calapan at around 0830H, cadets were
held on standby as Engr Reyes and the
Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) made a
deployment plan for the Municipality of
Pola. From there, the journey was a long
one – the cadets were split into groups of two due to the limit of available transportation vehicles; the transportation vehicle occasionally broke down en route to Pola. With the full effort and cooperation of everyone, however, the team overcame these hurdles and successfully made their way to the Municipality of Pola
The next assignment: heading towards Pola Community College in Zone II, Poblacion to
mark the daily attendance required for all
volunteers. Afterward, the team proceeded
to Pola Municipal Hall to conduct both
physical and medical examinations for all the
cadets. Unfortunately, news broke out that
all clean -up operations within the day were
suspended by the Local Government Unit
(LGU), as some of the other volunteers during
the day experienced symptoms including
skin rashes, dizziness, and difficulty in
breathing during/after clean -up. As such, a water sample from the clean -up sites is sent to be tested by the DOH in order to assess the type of oil before coastal clean -up operations are resumed.
With clean-up operations suspended for
the day, the team retreated to their accommodations, a resort in Pola named Lovapalooza. Throughout the rest of the day, they were given instructions from the LGU that another set of medical examinations should be done by the next day and most importantly, the personal protective equipment (PPE) provided by the LGU with the help of the Mayor of Pola, Hon. Jennifer “Ina Alegre” Cruz, will also be available.
Out of the blue, however, nationwide news
media UNTV News and Rescue visited our accommodations along with the PCG and
conducted an interview with Engr. Reyes. This
was truly unforeseeable and at the same time,
a blissful experience as the team finally had
their first media exposure since the start of the operation.
Fortunately, at the end of the day, hope
sparked in everyone on the team from the
news delivered to us – the team was finally
assigned not one, but two Brgys to perform our operations on Buhay na Tubig and Batuhan. Two days in, and this finally marked the beginning of our mission.
March 6, 2023 – Day 3: The day started great for the bteam – a grand breakfast to boost team morale and a complete set of PPE for all of the cadets. Feeling motivated, everyone on the team assembled in the municipal hall during the morning before heading towards the assigned barangays.
There was one huge problem obstructing the
morning, however – because of the rough condition of the roads on the way to Brgy Buhay na Tubig, the team was forced to relocate to another Brgy which is Brgy Misong. The team would have to operate as a
whole instead of splitting into two groups. Overall, the trip going to the Brgy Misong took approximately almost an hour to reach, as it was a village deep within the hills of Pola.
The official from Barangay Misong warmly welcomed us and willingly coordinated with the team along with the Philippine Coast Guard who provided the necessary cleaning materials and equipment for the clean-up.
Prior to starting the clean-up operation, Engr Reyes and the PCG gave complete briefing and most importantly, introduced the buddy-buddy system. This system allows the cadets to work in pairs during the operation in order to evenly distribute the labor of the work and as a means of safety. Each pair of cadets
were given a sack to dispose of the waste collected. In addition, the cadets were explicitly told that the use of chemical dispersants was not allowed and as
an alternative, chemical absorbent pads were to be used in order to collect washed-up oil on the shorelines.
Despite the rocky and dangerous terrain of the clean-up site, the cadets determinedly pushed through and proceeded with the operation. The team picked up a mountain of waste, branches, and seaweed – all covered with oil. Additionally, the cadets utilized absorbent pads to wipe the oil off the stained rocks.
Overall, at least 21 sacks of waste and
contaminated oil debris were collected from
the operation – a huge success for the team’s
first clean-up operation! This waste was to be
left at a designated area, which was then to
be properly disposed of by the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
March 07, 2023 – Day 4: The day started with
the having a hearty breakfast, feeling great
and ready for the day’s task. They assembled
at the municipal hall as usual and recorded
their attendance before heading to Barangay
Calima, which was a considerable distance
Upon reaching the coast, they were greeted
by journalists from an international news photo agency called the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) and interviewed two of the NSA Cadets, 4CL D/C Lance Addison Enriquez and 4CL D/C Caryl Monique Quilem, who shared their insights about the clean-up operation and the importance of preserving the environment.
While the NSA cadets were being interviewed, the first half of the group proceeded to the mangrove area, which was heavily affected by oil. Before starting the operation, the PCG gave them a briefing about the oil spill incident, two types of oil, the nature of the clean-up work and, emphasizing the importance of safety and the proper
handling of hazardous materials.
The cadets then started the operation, cutting off the branches of mangroves and wiping the sprouts, leaves, and stones around the area. Despite the challenging task, the cadets persevered, and the entire operation lasted for two hours and collected oil debris contaminated with oil total of 5 sacks.
However, the second half of the group was unable to clean their assigned area due to the high tide. The risk of continuing the operation was too high, and the cadets fulfilled their objective of cleaning the heavily polluted mangrove area.
In conclusion, the environmental clean-up operation in Pola, Oriental Mindoro was a stunning success. The cadets’ dedication and hard work were evident, and it severed as a reminder of the importance of preserving the environment. It was a valuable experience for the cadets, as it allowed them to witness firsthand the negative impact of environmental pollution and the need for everyone’s cooperation in preserving the
environment. The cadets’ efforts are commendable, and their participation in such activities is a step towards a better future for our planet.
Additionally, it is great to see the positive impact of such activities, and the participation of the NSA cadets in such events is a step towards a better future for our planet. We should continue to encourage and support
such initiatives to preserve our environment and create a better future for generations to come.