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NOAA Spill Scientists Complete Initial Guidance for Philippines Oil Spill

An aerial image of a boat near an oil sheen.
A view from aerial overflight of the spill. The vessel pictured is the surface vessel for the remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) from Japan, March 24, 2023. Image credit: NOAA.

APRIL 11, 2023 — Two oil spill response specialists from NOAA have returned to the United States after being deployed to the Philippines for 16 days as part of a larger U.S. team that is assisting the government of the Philippines with an oil spill off Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.

The spill resulted from the tanker Princess Empress, which was carrying 800,000-900,000 liters of industrial fuel oil en route from Bataan to Iloilo, when it lost power and sank on Feb. 28. 

In support of the Philippines government, the U.S. National Response Team (NRT) mobilized a seven-person team to provide subject matter expertise in various areas of spill response. 

Prior to the deployment of the scientists, NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration provided remote support for the use of the NOAA spill trajectory model GNOME by the University of Philippines – Marine Science Institute, which was using GNOME to estimate the fate and transport of the spill. 

Marine pollution surveillance reports, produced from satellite imagery by NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, continue to be posted to the website of The International Charter Space and Major Disasters.  

A group of people looking at a map.
NOAA SSC Ruth Yender (right) and USCG IMAT CDR Johna Rossetti among Philippine Coast Guard responders at Philippine Coast Guard headquarters in Manila. Image credit: NOAA.

With funding through the U.S. Agency for International Development, two NOAA scientific support coordinators were deployed to the Philippines on March 17. In their role there, they met with the Philippine Coast Guard Incident Command Post in Batangas and visited some of the hardest hit shoreline areas in the Pola Municipality. They also visited Verde Island—considered one of the most biodiverse areas in the country and a focus of concern for protection. 

The coordinators joined personnel from the Philippine Coast Guard and the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation in conducting overflights of the impacted area, and met with the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Biodiversity Management Board on activities and observations. Their contributions included guidance on topics such as: reopening closed fisheries, appropriate protective equipment for cleanup workers, shoreline cleanup assessment techniques, protection strategies for sensitive shorelines, aerial oil observation techniques, and appropriate shoreline cleanup endpoints.

Once the sunken Princess Empress was located via remotely-operated vehicle (ROV), OR&R joined other agencies in reviewing the ROV imagery and strategizing on-water pollution response operations.

The scientific support coordinators attended the Governor’s Press Conference and briefed the mayor of Pola as well as several Agency secretaries on NOAA’s observations. They also assisted various members of the incident management team with the development and refinement of the incident command system planning process.

As the response to the spill continues, NOAA will be available to provide remote science and technical support to the Philippine government (as part of the NRT effort), and welcomes opportunities for future collaboration in oil spill planning and response.

Last updated Tuesday, April 11, 2023 5:52pm PDT