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Publishers’ group head calls for info drive; NFA donates rice sacks

September 9, 2006

By BOY RYAN B. ZABAL

KALIBO, Aklan – Publishers Association of the Philippines Inc. (PAPI) President Juan Dayang is rallying for a massive information campaign nationwide to educate the public on the ill-effects of exposure to bunker fuel oil spill.

This he stressed in the wake of the growing number of coastal villagers in Guimaras Island getting sick due to exposure to the spilled oil blanketing their beaches, mangrove areas, and fishing grounds.

The ill-fated M/T Solar I of Sunshine Maritime Development Corporation sank in the Guimaras Strait last August 11. The tanker, chartered by oil refiner Petron Corp., was carrying two million liters of bunker oil.

About 250,000 liters of oil had spilled to the Strait, threatening the pristine beaches, mangroves, swamps and livelihood of thousands of villagers in the area.

“A massive information campaign should be undertaken not only in Guimaras but also in nearby areas that might be threatened by the oil spill. It is very obvious that we don’t have an emergency response plan when it comes to oil spills. Hence, people in the coastal areas affected by the oil spill don’t know what to do and got unnecessarily exposed to the harmful substance,” Dayang said.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo visited the island of Guimaras three times after the oil spill – the worst in the history of the country.

Dayang, a native of Aklan, said more than 700 coastal villagers in the island are suffering from various ailments or symptoms related to the bunker fuel oil.

Meanwhile, the National Food Authority VI (NFA VI) donated 74,414 pieces of unserviceable empty sacks to the provincial government of Guimaras to be used as booms to protect the coastline of the province from the oil spill on its shores.

NFA VI director Javier Lozada said 57,995 pieces were donated to the local government of Guimaras through Governor J.C. Rahman Nava while another 17,419 pieces were donated to the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority based in Iloilo.

Lozada said the empty sacks can be used as containers for the recovered bunker oil residues and as receptacle for hays, chicken feathers and even human hair which are being used to absorb the oil slick.

In his report to NFA administrator Gregorio Y. Tan, Jr., Lozada also noted that 2,071 bags of rice were released for the relief assistance of the local government, private relief institutions and local representatives to assist the residents affected by the oil spill.

Rice withdrawals for relief operations were either paid in cash or covered by a memorandum of agreement (MOA), he said. Lozada assured that NFA VI has sufficient rice stocks to address a possible upsurge in demand for the staple especially in Guimaras which is the most affected by the oil spill.

Since Region VI is also of the major palay producing areas in the country, Lozada said they are already preparing the logistics to actively buy palay for the main crop.

“The coming procurement which will start in three weeks time will surely beef up the region’s present inventory of rice,” said Lozada.

For more information on the NFA’s oil spill clean-up assistance in Guimaras, the public may send their inquiries via Text NFA Program with mobile number 0917-6210927.

(For more Guimaras oil spill stories, click Panay News, Sept. 9, 2006.)

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