MANILA, Philippines, August 12, 2013 (ENS) – Petron Corporation has acknowledged its pipeline in Cavite Province leaked half a million liters of diesel fuel into Manila Bay which affected over 30 villages in the province. Petron is the largest oil refining and marketing company in the Philippines, supplying more than a third of the country’s oil requirements.

“We take full responsibility for this unfortunate event,” said Petron President Lubin Nepomuceno today. “We apologize and assure affected communities that we will do our best to resolve the situation as soon as possible.”

The spill was first spotted on Thursday, August 8. Petron management had denied that the oil leak originated from its underwater pipeline, which company officials said was already sealed at the time of the oil spill incident.

Until today Philippine authorities said they had not identified the source of the massive spill. The Coast Guard announced they could not determine where the oil originated, as President Benigno Aquino III ordered government agencies to clean up and recover the fuel that caused a red slick on 300 square kilometers of the 2,000 sq km bay, the busiest waterway in the country.

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The tanker MV Makisig surrounded by spilled oil in Manila Bay (Photo courtesy Philippine Coast Guard)

Officials estimate 500,000 liters of diesel fuel extend along 20 kilometers of the coastline of Cavite Province. Dead fish floated on the surface of the bay and some residents became sick from inhaling the fumes.

The spill comes as Typhoon Labuyo bears down on the Metro Manila region, where authorities have closed schools in anticipation of torrential rains.

After first claiming that the leak is coming from an underwater pipe owned by oil company Petron Corp., or from a pipeline connected to a tanker unloading diesel at a Cavite terminal, Coast Guard officials admitted they had not located the source of the leak.

Captain Avelino Casinillo, who commands the tanker MV Makisig, owned by Herma Shipping and Transport Corp., denied that the oil spill came from his ship because his cargo of oil products is different from the oil found in Manila Bay.

But the Coast Guard said samples taken from areas hit by the spill matched that of the diesel being used by a fuel tanker that had earlier unloaded fuel at the Petron Corp. terminal in the city of Rosario, Cavite Province. Both Petron and Herma Shipping had refused to allow authorities to take oil samples to determine the origin of the oil spill. The Coast Guard threatened obstruction of justice charges against both companies.

The Makisig and its crew were detained at the dock pending the results of the investigation. But the Coast Guard and the local officials in Rosario have allowed their release, and the vessel was allowed to leave Manila Bay Sunday night so it would not sink in the typhoon.

The spreading oil was “mostly contained” by Sunday, the Coast Guard said.

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At least 30 villages have been affected by the spill. (Photo credit unknown)

The oil spill along the coast of the Rosario municipality has affected at least 30 barangays, or villages, and hundreds of fishermen have lost their income as the government ordered a fisheries closure in the spill area. Authorities have deployed two patrol boats to enforce the fishing ban.

Officials said the spill has damaged coral reefs in Rosario municipal waters.

Rosario Mayor Jose Ricafrente Friday declared a state of calamity to speed up assistance to fishermen and their families. The mayor released rice and canned goods for distribution to the victims of oil slick.

Ricafrente said that the spill has jeopardized the livelihoods of 40,000 people who depend on the fishing industry.

Environmental advocacy group the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment called for an independent investigation of the disaster, immediate compensation of affected communities, rehabilitation of the polluted environment, and the closure of the Petron oil depot in Rosario Town, Cavite to prevent future oil disasters in the area.

Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan PNE, on Sunday noted that this spill comes on the seventh anniversary of the Guimaras oil spill caused by Petron Corporation in Manila Bay off the coast of Cavite.

“Exactly seven years after the worst maritime oil disaster in the Philippines caused by Petron in the province of Guimaras, the same oil giant has caused a repeat performance in Manila Bay with yet another oil spill affecting several towns in Cavite province. It’s the same story over again: fish and shellfish kills, affected coral reefs, and immediate impacts on the health and livelihood of coastal communities,” said Bautista.

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