Swedish Expert: No Traces Of Chemical Contamination Off Romblon

Waters and
marine products off the coast of Sibuyan
island in Romblon province tested negative of chemical contamination following
a general assessment conducted by foreign experts.
    Rune
Berglind, a Swedish toxicologist deployed by the Joint European
Union-Monitoring Information Center, said Friday they have noted “no
observable environment pollution” within the shipwreck off Sibuyan coast
in Romblon province.
    A four-man
team of chemical experts, which started the assessment on July 15, was
dispatched by the European Commission and the United Nations (UN) following the
government’s request for a support from the international community to
determine possible chemical contamination in marine products and waters in the
area.
    “However,
we had some inputs that will help the ongoing future works in salvaging the
ship”, Mr. Berglind told a press conference at the Philippine Ports
Authority office at the Manila
South Harbor
.
    He added
that authorities should “keep monitoring” the conditions within the
five-kilometer radius around the shipwreck for possible chemical contamination.
    Transportation
Undersecretary for maritime affairs Ma. Elena H. Bautista, chief of task force M/V
Princess of the Stars, said they will “put mechanisms in place just in
case of a spill and leak [of chemicals]”.
    “We
can’t judge the long-term effects as of now. But so far, all tests and sampling
show non-detectable level,” she said.
    Operations
to retrieve hundreds of bodies trapped inside the ferry were halted after it
was discovered that the vessel was carrying a cargo of highly toxic pesticide
endosulfan, which was owned by Del Monte Philippines, Inc. and used as
pesticide in its pineapple plantations.
    Other toxic
chemicals owned by Bayer CropScience, Inc. such as Antracol WP70, Tamaron
600SL, Trap 70WP and Fuerza GR3 were later on discovered by the task force.
    “We
want to make sure that we finish this at the soonest possible time because we
have no assurance how long the packaging will hold after already close to a
month of being submerged in the waters,” said Ms. Bautista, adding that
they will finalize the plans of retrieving the shipments and fuel with vessel
owner Sulpicio Lines, Inc.
    Ms. Bautista
said the government maintains a temporary fishing ban within the five-kilometer
radius near the capsized vessel as a precautionary measure.
    Meanwhile,
Nileema Noble, UN resident coordinator to the Philippines, said they had deployed
a salvage expert from the International Maritime Organization to help the
authorities and the salvor on how best to refloat the vessel.
    Ms.
Bautista said they would conduct a “drill” with residents of San Fernando town in
Romblon on the first week of August before the actual salvage operations begin.
    M/V
Princess of the Stars capsized in the Visayas on June 21 at the height of
typhoon Frank (international codename: Fensheng) when it sailed from Manila bound to Cebu.
It
carried more than 800 passengers and crewmembers.

 

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