Philippines find leaking tanker after three-week search Ship’s crew

MANILA, March 21 (Reuters) – A leaking fuel tanker that sank off the central Philippines three weeks ago was found using an underwater robot from Japan, a provincial governor said on Tuesday as authorities sought more foreign aid to tackle the oil spill.

The discovery of MT Princess Empresswhich was carrying about 800,000 liters (211,338 gallons) of industrial heating oil when it capsized and eventually sank on February 28, was deemed critical to stopping the spill, which hit coasts in three provinces.

Plugging the leaks and extracting the remaining oil from the tanker is urgent, Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor said in a news conference.

With the help of a remote-controlled vehicle that arrived from Japan on Monday, Dolor shared the first photos of the Philippine-flagged vessel from its precise location. The robot will also help determine the condition of the tanker, he said.

About 36,000 hectares (88,958 acres) of coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass could be affected by the oil spill, according to Philippine marine scientists.

Japan has also dispatched a coast guard team to help with clean-up efforts, according to the Philippine Disaster Management Agency, while five U.S. coast guards have arrived to help respond to the spill, the U.S. embassy said.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will work closely with the Philippines to conduct rapid environmental assessments of affected areas and identify needs for ecosystem restoration, the embassy said.

The Philippine Ministry of Environment said it was also in talks with other Southeast Asian countries for further assistance.

Authorities have imposed fishing and swimming bans in the affected areas, affecting the livelihoods of thousands of residents and tourism businesses.

(Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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