Oil spill reaches Philippines’ vital marine reserves hinh anh 1Philippines Coast Guard personnel and volunteer residents in Pola, Oriental Mindoro use absorbent pads to remove oil from rocks. (Photo: www.philstar.com)

Manila (VNA) - The massive oil leak from a tanker that sank off Oriental Mindoro province last month has reached one of the Philippines' marine reserves and sanctuaries, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said on March 20.

Captain Victorino Acosta, PCG Batangas station commander, said the oil slick was discovered on March 20 morning in the Verde Island Passage between Batangas province on the mainland Luzon, south of Manila, and the northeastern tip of Mindoro island.

The area is described as one of the global centres of marine biodiversity with the high concentration of coastal fishes, corals, crustaceans, mollusks, sea grasses and mangroves.

It is also home to endangered and threatened species such as hawksbill turtle, whale sharks, manta rays and dugongs. Verde Island Passage is also a favourite spot for divers.

The MT Princess Empress was carrying 800,000 litres of industrial oil when it sank off Oriental Mindoro on February 28, causing a widespread oil spill in Oriental Mindoro and the neighbouring areas.

Data from the Philippine government showed that the spill affected nearly 152,000 residents in 131 villages. Dozens of people have also fallen ill due to oil toxicity. Pola town in Oriental Mindoro is the most affected of the nine municipalities of Mindoro province./.