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An interview with Dr. Angel Alcala, former DENR chief

August 27, 2006

LAST week, the Visayan Daily Star was able to interview former Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Angel Alcala, who is a marine biologist, about the Guimaras oil spill.

Here are some excerpts:

V. Daily Star: What is the extent of the immediate damage?

Angel Alcala: As of now, I really don’t know the extent of damage but one thing I am sure of is that the fishermen can no longer go at sea and catch the fish – because marine life affected by the spill is no longer edible. The immediate effect of oil on top of the water prevents oxygen that the fish can no longer breathe. Oil spills also suffocate corals, mangroves and sea grass beds. The slick definitely worsened the marine life in the waters of Guimaras considering that it’s already bad there with the earlier destruction on corals in the area.

VDS: What can be done at this point?

AA: Instead of officials talking of investigations right away after the spill, what should be done is to immediately contain the oil – by pumping the out with booms and dispersing it on land. It will help if the dispersal is done using bagasse, hay and rice stalks, for example, instead of directly to the land as these products will absorb the substance spilled.

VDS: What will be its long term effects?

AA: While fishermen may be affected badly in their livelihood, the bigger long-term effect is on marine life as organisms will accumulate hydro-carbon pollutants which are hazardous to human health. The environment will also be polluted down to the bottom of the sea. It may take decades to rehabilitate marine life in affected areas. I know that in some countries, damages caused by oil spill have long-term effects – as long as 30 years although in tropical countries, like ours, it can be shorter than that. We really can’t tell how many years it will take for marine life to completely recover from this environmental tragedy.

(For more of Dr. Alcala’s insights, please click Visayan Daily Star . The interview was published in the paper’s Aug. 20 issue.)

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