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Pollution case filed vs Petron, ship firm

September 19, 2006

•Palace tells Guimaras folk to ‘keep out of hazard zones’

By Blanche Rivera and
Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
Inquirer/INQ7.net

THE GOVERNMENT yesterday lodged a pollution case against Petron Corp., the country’s largest oil refiner, and Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. (SMDC) for the oil spill in Guimaras, whose damaging effect, experts say, would continue to be felt by the fishing-dependent province in the coming years.

This developed as Malacañang advised residents to keep out of health hazard zones as it offered assurances government is attending to the medical needs of persons downed by toxic fumes in three villages heavily affected by the Visayas oil spill.

Petron and SMDC were charged before the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) with violating Republic Act No. 9275 or the Clean Water Act and Presidential Decree No. 979, which deals with marine pollution.

The regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources yesterday filed the complaint before the PAB, a quasi-judicial body under the DENR, after a month of assessing the environmental damage caused by the oil spill.

“The PAB can now take cognizance of the pollution case,” PAB legal counsel Jonas Leones told reporters yesterday.

In a press statement Tuedsay, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said, “The health and safety of the residents of Guimaras are our utmost concern and we urge them to cooperate with the health authorities by staying away from health hazard zones and heeding evacuation orders implemented by the local authorities.”

The Inquirer banner story on Tuesday reported high levels of hydrogen sulfide, a highly toxic gas, have downed 29 people, including four children, according to a study by the Department of Health (DoH) and the University of the Philippines National Poison Management and Control Center.

The victims suffered dizziness, headaches, body malaise, numbness, and coughs, the report said.

The study, the details of which had not been made public until the Inquirer report, was made the basis for the August 29 memorandum of the Guimaras provincial government ordering the evacuation of residents from Barangays Cabalagnan, La Paz, and Tando.

Bunye said the DoH is “on top of the situation” attending to the needs of the victims and educating affected residents about the health hazards of the oil spill.

He also said barangays affected by the oil spill are being monitored for toxic fumes.

(For the full stories, click Pollution case and Keep out, Sept. 19, 2006.)

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