By Helen Flores
The Philippines Star, Sept. 27, 2006
THE Department of Science and Technology (DOST) confirmed yesterday that the chemical dispersants used in containing the Guimaras oil spill may cause more harm to the already distressed area.
“Dun sa katanungan na ang chemical dispersants na ito ay mas toxic, actually totoo ’yun (It’s actually true that the chemical dispersants are toxic),” Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), of the DOST, said during a press conference at the Hotel Kimberly in Malate, Manila.
Montoya made the statement in reaction to a scientific study conducted by Silliman University, which cautioned against the use of chemical oil dispersants in cleaning the oil spill.
Reports said that the research team found that “the effects of dispersants on living organisms are worse that the actual effects of the oil spill.”
Montoya, however, said that the agencies concerned in containing the oil spill should weigh the risk and benefit of using chemical dispersants.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) used chemical dispersants to clean up the oil spill in Guimaras.
“Lahat ng ginagawa natin sa siyensya at medicina laging may harm yan, sa gamot may side effects pero kailangan mo laging isipin na dapat yun benepisyo na gusto mong makuha should outweigh the risk or the harm (All we do in the field of science and medicine has some harm, medicines have side effects, but you have to think that the benefits you desire should outweigh the risk or harm),” he stressed
He said the issue of using the chemical dispersants is now being debated upon.
“Does it actually outweigh the potential harm to the ecological environment?” Montoya said, adding that these chemicals would eventually reach shore and the people who would be exposed to them.
Montoya added that there are no really “global experts” in this case because it is rarely happening in any country.
He said the experiences of other countries in handling oil spills are the government’s basis of response.
He also said that there are other ways of treating the oil spill, like the use of coconut and corn husks as oil absorbents.
“Maraming substitutes, dapat alamin kung anong pinakamaganda ’yun ang dapat asikasuhin, importante dito maaddress natin ’yun problema taking into consideration not only the actual oil spill itself but its acute and long-term effect in the environment and the population,” he said.
The M/T Solar I, carrying more than two million liters of bunker fuel, sank off Guimaras waters on Aug. 11 causing the country’s worst-ever oil spill.