Petron theme song: Di na natuto

September 4, 2006

By Neal Cruz

Petron still using banned single-hulled tankers

THE oil slick off Guimaras Island is still spreading and the Philippines has sent out an SOS to other countries to help not only in limiting the spreading pollution but also to salvage the sunken oil tanker or suck out the remaining oil in its tanks before it spills out. The sunken MT Solar I was carrying 2 million liters of bunker oil, of which some 200,000 to 300,000 liters have already leaked out to the sea and are now polluting 200 kilometers of coastline. That leaves at least 1.7 million more liters of oil still in the tanker’s holds. If all that spills out, imagine the damage that it can do.

The tanker is lying off Guimaras 3,000 feet underwater and local salvage teams do not have the equipment and capability to reach such depths. Every second the vessel is leaking more oil. At any moment, the other tanks may burst and spill their contents because of the extreme pressure at that depth. Solar I is a ticking time bomb.

Salvage operations are going to be a long, difficult—and very expensive—job. Cleaning up the beaches, mangrove swamps and coral reefs would take even longer and more money—not to mention the lost livelihood of thousands of fishermen. Who is going to pay for all that?

I think it should be Petron, the owner of the spilled oil, and Sunshine Maritime Development Corp., the owner of the sunken tanker. The two corporations are especially negligent and irresponsible in transporting oil. The 298-ton Solar I was carrying Petron oil from Limay, Bataan for delivery to the Western Mindanao Power Corp. in Zamboanga del Sur. But for the transport of such a dangerous cargo, they engaged the services of a single-hulled vessel, the use of which is already prohibited by the International Maritime Organization under the 1987 Marpol Convention.

The convention, of which the Philippines is a signatory, mandates that all ocean-going, inter-island tankers be double-hulled to minimize the leakage of liquid cargo in the event of accidents.

But Petron and Sunshine Maritime still use single-hulled tankers in transporting oil because they are cheaper. This is not the first time that a Petron tanker spilled oil in the sea.

(Sorry. Missed this one. For the rest of the column, click Neal.)


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