RP oil spill likened to Alaska’s Exxon Valdez

August 30, 2006

MIAG-AO – Unchecked damage from one of the worst-ever oil spills in the Philippines has raised fears of a local disaster similar in scale to major catastrophes like that of the Exxon Valdez.

While the amount of oil aboard the Solar I when it sank off Guimaras Island is a fraction of what the Valdez disgorged when it foundered off Alaska in 1989, experts say many more people could ultimately be affected.

Only one-tenth of the Solar’s oil has leaked so far, leaving what experts call a ticking time-bomb on the ocean floor – and while the Valdez spilled in a relatively remote area, hundreds of thousands of people depend on the Guimaras region for their livelihoods.

Marine biologist Nestor Yunque said the number of Alaskans dependent on the ecosystem harmed by the Valdez was minuscule compared to those on the coasts of Guimaras, Panay and Negros islands.

The speed with which the oil reached the Guimaras coast is a key concern, Yunque said, noting that it took time for the Valdez crude to hit the Alaska coast, allowing for some chemical disintegration of the pollutants.

“It took a while,” Yunque said. “It will probably take three or six months before we will be able to see the actual damage [here].”

The Alaska spill contaminated about 1,300 miles (2,100 kilometers) of coastline, killed a quarter-million sea birds, thousands of otters and hundreds of seals. Agence France-Presse

(Click INQ7.net for the full story, Aug. 30, 2006.)

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