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Proposed law gets tough on spills

September 3, 2006

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will certify as urgent a bill that would give more teeth to maritime regulations after an oil spill on Guimaras showed them to be flawed, an official said yesterday.

This developed as Malacañang said it expects the cleanup to take a while along with the rehabilitation of the areas that have been affected.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Mrs. Arroyo had ordered the transport department, the Coast Guard and other agencies to submit a comprehensive assessment of pending bills on tougher maritime rules.

He said Mrs. Arroyo had also ordered the Coast Guard to identify sea lanes for vessels carrying oil, chemicals and other dangerous materials, and then to submit its recommendations on Sept. 6.

“The President wants to ensure that the Solar I oil spill will be the last of its kind,” Bunye said.

“The Executive department is prepared to certify the proper legislation in the public interest that will give more teeth to our maritime laws and stiffer penalties for negligence.”

Meanwhile, Bunye said although Malacañang welcomes recent developments identifying the source of the spill, it would still take some time before it is completely resolved.

“The cause of the crisis is now in full view. We are well on the way of sealing any more leaks and offloading the oil as directed by President Arroyo. This may take a long time but we are confident that a comprehensive rehabilitation plan, supported by all stakeholders will mop up this spill,” he said.

Bunye’s statement came at the heels of President Arroyo’s admission that the Philippines is helpless in addressing accidents as big and as serious as the oil spill.

Bunye, however, assured that the government, through Task Force Guimaras, remains on top of the situation, including environment, health and justice issues.

Lt. Com. Harold Alder, Philippine Coast Guard station commander, assured residents of Iloilo that only oil sheen had been found in the coastal waters near the province’s boundaries. He said the oil sheen would dissipate in due time.

(Condensed from stories from the Mla Standard Today and Mla Times, Sept. 4, 2006.)

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