Thursday, August 24, 2006


The sunken M/T Solar 1 continued to leak more fuel yesterday as foul weather hampered the Coast Guard clean-up operations in the Guimaras Strait and threatened to further spread the oil spill, Harold Jarder, Iloilo Coast Guard commander, said.

Guimaras is small island off the coast of Iloilo, on Panay Island and part of the Philippines.

Contrary to the World Wide Fund and Petron Corp. claims that the leaking from the sink site had stopped, Jarder said 200 to 250 liters of bunker fuel was still being spewed out an hour yesterday, based on actual observation by the Philippine and Japanese Coast Guard at the site.

The continued leak will have far reaching consequences, going beyond Guimaras and even Negros Occidental, if the spill hits the Visayan Sea, which is considered the richest fishing ground in the whole of Asia, Ma. Athena Ronquillo Ballesteros, Greenpeace International Climate Energy Campaigner, said yesterday.

"Tragically, the oil spill is killing precious marine life and displacing thousands of fisherfolk as Petron argues," she told the Daily Star.

"Citizens are responding, LGUs and the coast guard are acting heroically and all Petron can offer to this ecological disaster are excuses and delays," Ballesteros she said.

In Negros Occidental, the Provincial Disaster Management Team expressed concern that rains could hasten the flow of the oil spill, as coastal towns and cities stayed alert, PDMT chief Vicfran Defante said.

Gov. Joseph MaraƱonsaid there is an imminent danger to the 13 towns and 10 cities of Negros Occidental that might result in irreparable damage to the environment, livelihood of inhabitants and property loses, he said.

He requested a "state of calamity" be declared.

Meanwhile, Iloilo Rep. Rolex Suplico also said the president should declare a state of calamity in Western Visayas due to the "environmental disaster" brought about by a massive oil spill.

The following is from

Green activists picket Petron

HUNDREDS of kilometers away from the polluted waters off Guimaras Island, members of an environment group picketed in front of Petron Corp.’s Makati head office to demand accountability for one of the country's worst oil spills.

Holding signs denouncing the company as a “curse to nature,” members of Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment picketed Petron to demand that the oil refiner shoulder the cost of cleaning up the oil spill and rehabilitating Guimaras’ ravaged fishing and tourism industries as well as its coastline.

"Petron should release 10 billion pesos to speed up cleanup and relief operations in Guimaras. We believe that's a sound estimate," said Frances Quimpo, Kalikasan spokesperson.

The group believed the company, among the three largest oil companies operating in the country, should take responsibility for the oil slick because "it was Petron's decision to let [MT Solar 1] transport the oil despite the bad weather on August 11," said Quimpo.

Oil tanker Solar I sank off Guimaras on August 11 and discharged more than 50,000 gallons of industrial oil into the pristine seas. Petron Corp, the company that contracted the tanker, promised to continue to provide the needed assistance to clean up contaminated coastline.

Kalikasan intends to send a letter to Petron executives to lay down their demands and "express our dismay over your company's denial of responsibility over the spill of Petron oil."

"It is highly deplorable for the company to act and display first-rate arrogance at the expense of our people's lives, environment and our future. We hope by now you are aware of how our poor fisher folk are barely coping with the tragic situation," the letter read.

Quimpo said Kalikasan has begun expanding its network to take action on the environmental disaster.

"Whether Petron heeds or disregards our demand for it to carry the cost of speedy cleanup and comprehensive rehabilitation, the fight for justice against this Petron-made ecological catastrophe will continue, here and overseas, whatever it takes and at all cost," the group said in its letter.

Oil has contaminated more than 300 kilometers (200 miles) of coastline on Guimaras Island and is now threatening Negros, the country's fourth-largest island, as well as Panay.

The oil has also destroyed 454 hectares (1,120 acres) of mangroves and 58 hectares of seaweed farms.

Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, who heads a task force on the oil spill, said 3,700 families were affected by the disaster and that tourism to the island, once known for its pristine beaches, had also been hit hard.

The government set up a commission of inquiry into the disaster on Wednesday and has given it three days to submit an initial report.

The spill is already regarded as the worst environmental disaster in the history of the Philippines, stretching more than 10 nautical miles and putting the livelihoods of thousands of poor fishermen at risk.

(1 dollar = 51.60 pesos)

No comments: