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Oil spill victims urged to file claims; ‘Solar I’ captain faces criminal raps

September 5, 2006

By Joel Guinto and Tetch Torres

THE government is urging victims of the Guimaras oil spill to file for claims from an international organization of oil companies that will shell out as much as $300 million for the disaster.

This developed as a Department of Justice body recommended the filing of criminal charges against the captain of a tanker that caused one of the worst oil spills in the country after sinking off Guimaras Strait.

Government officials are studying whether the victims should file the claims individually or as a group before the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC), an organization of oil firms in 190 countries, said Defense Secretary and concurrent National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) chairman Avelino Cruz Jr.

“The insurance covers main types of damages, property damage, cleanup operations, preventive measures (against oil spills), losses in fishery, aquaculture and tourism, including consequential losses and pure economic losses,” Cruz said.

If a beach resort is affected by the oil spill, for example, Cruz said its owner could ask the IOPC to compensate it for the net profit the resort would have earned had it not been closed because of the spill.

The prescription period for the filing of claims is six years from the time of the oil spill, Cruz said.

Meanwhile, Ernesto Pineda, justice undersecretary, said Tuesday that Capt. Norberto Aguro could be charged with violating the Revise Penal Code for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and damage to property because crewmembers Ian Nabua and Victor Moragos have not been found since the tanker sank last August 11.

Pineda said Aguro’s professional license has expired and that his Master Mariner’s certificate was limited to chemical tankers only.

“He [Aguro] was qualified to run a chemical tanker, not an oil tanker. Yet he took command of ‘Solar I,’ which was an oil tanker,” Pineda said.

Pineda said Aguro also admitted that one of the compartments of “Solar I” was damaged while the ship was en route from the province of Bataan to Zamboanga province.

And instead of seeking shelter in the province of Iloilo amid the rough waves, Pineda said Aguro chose to push through with the trip.

Solar I, a single-hulled tanker, sank in rough seas carrying some two million liters of bunker fuel.

Pineda added that another factor that contributed to the sinking of Solar 1 was that it was overloaded after Petron sent additional personnel as “convoys.”

The DoJ will resume its inquiry this Friday to determine whether Petron officials and owners/incorporators (Filipinos and Japanese) of Sunshine Maritime Dev. and Corp. (SMDC) and Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) could be held liable.

(Click Claims, Sept. 5, 2006, for the full story.)

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