MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A large oil spill from an underwater pipe has contaminated waters in Manila Bay near the Philippine capital and prompted authorities on Friday to ban fishing.
The coast guard said about 500,000 liters (132,000 gallons) of diesel fuel formed a red slick stretching some 300 square kilometers (116 square miles) near four coastal towns in Cavite province.
The leak apparently originated from an underwater pipe owned by oil company Petron Corp., or from a pipeline that was connected from the pipe to a tanker that unloaded the diesel at a Cavite terminal on Thursday, Commodore Joel Garcia said.
He said the oil slick covered a 20-kilometer (12.5-mile) stretch of shoreline and was about 15 kilometers (9 miles) wide close to the mouth of the bay.
The mayor of Rosario town said he declared a state of calamity to speed up assistance to fishermen and their families.
"We have been hit badly," Mayor Jose Ricafrente told DZBB radio station.
Some residents, many of them fishermen who were suddenly out of work, were undeterred by warnings of health risks and waded in the contaminated waters to scoop up the diesel fuel in barrels for sale or in exchange for rice and canned meat.
Petron said in a statement that it had cleared the pipe of fuel and was cooperating with authorities "to resolve this situation immediately," but it did not acknowledge any wrongdoing.
Asis Perez, head of the government's fisheries bureau, said the fish supply to Manila would not be affected because 95 percent comes from outside Manila Bay.
He said that big fish could escape from the oil spill but small ones were unlikely to survive. Shellfish also may be contaminated.
Local media reported that dead fish could be seen floating in the bay.
Perez said the diesel would naturally evaporate in about 10 days.
Authorities deployed two patrol vessels to enforce the fishing ban.