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Cross-channel swimmers brave oil spill

September 9, 2006

Agence France-Presse

ILOILO – Less than a month after one of the worst oil spills in Philippine history, swimmers braved the water for an annual cross-channel race on Saturday.

The 27 hardy competitors numbered far below the hundred or more who normally take part in the swim between the island of Guimaras and the city of Iloilo.

Most of those who pulled out cited the August 11 sinking of the M/T Solar I off Guimaras, which resulted in the spilling of at least 50,000 gallons of oil, polluting fishing grounds, mangroves, corals and marine reserves.

John Paul Pia, spokesman of Manila Broadcasting Corporation, which sponsors the Open Cross-Channel Swim, said they were determined to hold the event to demonstrate that much of the area was unpolluted.

Mark Cabasac, 17, who finished the 1.7 nautical mile (3.1 kilometer) course first, said he saw no oil in the water during the race.

Although only a few swimmers took part, hundreds of people were on hand to cheer them to the finish line at the Iloilo City wharf.

The Solar I sits in 640 meters (2,100 feet) of water, beyond the reach of human divers, and experts fear the remaining 450,000 gallons of oil still inside may leak out.

From INQ7.net, Sept. 9, 2006.)

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