Philippines' Cebu declares calamity as sunken ferry leaks oil in pristine waters

CORDOVA, Philippines - The central Philippine province of Cebu, famous among divers around the world for its clear waters and coral reefs, declared a state of calamity on Monday as an oil slick from a ferry that sank late last week spread to about 20 per cent of the coast.

A 40-year-old ferry owned by 2GO Group Inc sank about a kilometre offshore on Friday after a collision with a cargo vessel. At least 52 people were killed and 68 were still missing, officials said.

The ferry was also carrying 120,000 litres of bunker fuel, 20,000 litres of lube oil and 20,000 litres of diesel fuel when it sank. The 2GO Group said it believes only the lube oil and diesel fuel were leaking.

The oil slick had reached Cordova municipality and Lapu-Lapu City, both on Mactan island, home to five-star beach front resorts.

Lantao town in Cordova, known for its seafood restaurants, was now surrounded by oil, said its mayor Adelino Sitoy.

A sheen of oil also covers at least 10 to 20 hectares of mangrove plantations in Cordova, and a member of a local marine watch group said rehabilitation of the area would be costly.

“We have no livelihood now because no one will buy the fish we haul, with a lot of bodies still in the water and oil in the sea,” Ernesto Cabiso, 49, a Cordova fisherman, told Reuters.

Authorities were using chemicals to disperse the oil.

Coast guard teams were conducting manual clean up in areas affected by the oil spill, said Commodore William Melad, head of the coast guard district in the central Visayas region.

The 2GO group has brought in international oil spill experts to help in the clean-up and deployed a 400-litre oil spill boom in the area, said Lito Salvio, an assistant vice president at the shipping firm.