Charges Recommended for Owners of Sunken MT Princess Empress

This file photo taken on March, 21, 2023 shows an image of the MT Princess Empress from Japan's remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV), which located the tanker some 400 meters deep from where it sank off Balingawan Point in Naujan town, Oriental Mindoro. IMAGE FROM FACEBOOK PAGE OF GOV HUMERLITO DOLOR
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The Department of Justice (DoJ) has recently made a significant move by recommending the filing of criminal charges against the parties responsible for the 2023 sinking of the MT Princess Empress. This unfortunate incident resulted in a devastating oil spill in Oriental Mindoro, causing widespread environmental damage and affecting the livelihoods of many.

According to the DoJ, a panel of government prosecutors has uncovered irregularities in certain documents related to the construction and certificate of public convenience of MT Princess Empress. As a result, charges will be filed against RDC Reield Marines Services Inc., the shipping company that owns and operates the vessel, along with some of its corporate officers and employees. Additionally, 19 Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel, two Maritime Industry Authority personnel, and a private individual will also face charges.

The charges include multiple counts of falsification of public documents by a private individual, multiple use of falsified documents, and multiple counts of falsification of public or official documents. These charges highlight the seriousness of the alleged offenses and the importance of holding those responsible accountable for their actions.

The National Bureau of Investigation-Environmental Crime Division and Mayor Jennifer Cruz of Palo, Oriental Mindoro, played crucial roles in initiating the filing of charges. Their efforts reflect the commitment of local authorities to address environmental crimes and protect their communities.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla emphasized the need for accountability in cases like these. He stated, “Negligence cannot be used as an excuse to destroy the environment and livelihood of people. It is important to be diligent on land and on our waters.” Remulla’s statement underscores the significance of responsible practices to safeguard both the environment and the well-being of communities.

The sinking of MT Princess Empress occurred on February 28, 2023, off the coast of Naujan in Oriental Mindoro. The vessel was en route from Bataan to Iloilo when it tragically sank, carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel oil. The subsequent oil spill had far-reaching consequences, affecting the waters of Antique, Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, and Palawan.

The environmental impact of the oil spill was extensive. It caused disruption to 5,185 hectares of marine habitat in Oriental Mindoro and Western Visayas, including the destruction of 2,252 hectares of corals. The Department of Tourism reported that at least 61 sites in Oriental Mindoro, including beach resorts, were affected. Furthermore, seven marine protected areas suffered damage as a result of the incident.

The estimated cost of the environmental damage caused by the oil spill, particularly to coral reefs and mangroves, exceeds P9.52 billion. Additionally, damages and losses to fisheries, agriculture, and livestock in three regions have reached more than P5 billion. These figures highlight the devastating economic impact of such environmental disasters and the urgent need for preventive measures and stricter regulations to avoid future incidents.

The recommendation of criminal charges by the DoJ is a significant step towards justice and accountability. It sends a clear message that negligence resulting in environmental damage will not be tolerated. This case serves as a reminder of the importance of responsible practices in the maritime industry and the need for robust regulations to protect our precious ecosystems.

As the legal proceedings unfold, it is crucial for international audiences to understand the gravity of this incident within the context of local laws and customs. The charges being filed signify a commitment to upholding environmental protection and ensuring the preservation of livelihoods for affected communities.

In conclusion, the recommended criminal charges against the parties responsible for the 2023 MT Princess Empress oil spill in Oriental Mindoro represent a significant step towards accountability. The environmental damage caused by this incident underscores the importance of responsible practices and stricter regulations in the maritime industry. It is our collective responsibility to protect our environment and prevent future disasters of this magnitude.

Source: The Manila Times

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