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Confusion, racketeers hamper oil spill claims

September 20, 2006

By Francis Allan L. Angelo
The Guardian, Sept. 20, 2006

CONFUSION and insurance racketeers are among the problems hampering the processing of claims by Guimaras residents whose livelihoods and properties were damaged by the worst oil spill in the country.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) personnel assisting in the damage claims procedure said they have to educate Guimaras residents, particularly the fisherfolks, on how to get monetary reparations from the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPCF).

Rhodora Capulso, chief of the DENR Regional Public Affairs Office, said the claimants have yet to grasp the details of the IOPCF procedure, especially the required supporting documents.

The IOPCF is a worldwide intergovernmental organization that provides compensation for oil pollution damages.

“Some of them cannot understand… They simply do not know what to do. We have to conduct house-to-house campaigns just to help them with their claims,” Capulso said.

Although they have conducted a seminar for the affected residents, Capulso said one session is not enough to make them comprehend the whole claims procedures.

Capulso said they will translate the IOPCF Claims Manual to Ilonggo to help Guimarasnons fully understand how their claims will be submitted.

The 1992 Fund Claims Manual states that compensation is payable for the costs of reasonable measures taken to combat oil at sea, protection of resources vulnerable to oil such as sensitive coastal habitats, seawater intakes of industrial plants, mariculture facilities and others.

The fund also covers shoreline cleanup and coastal installations and disposal of collected oil and oily wastes.

Compensation is also paid for the cost of mobilizing cleanup equipment and salvage resources for the purpose of preventive measures.

The IOPCF has made available some US$300 million for the damage claims.

Capulso also warned Guimaras residents of certain groups offering their help in the processing of their claims.

“All claims must be coursed through the provincial government. The IOPCF will only honor claims that were accomplished using the official form it has provided the capitol. They should be careful as other individuals might take advantage of the situation and partake of their claims,” Capulso said.

Another problem is how the IOPCF will pay the validated claimants.

“Will they issue checks or pay in cash? If they will pay cash, then that would be a major security concern for IOPCF personnel. If checks will be given out, some of the claimants might have problems in the encashment. Maybe they can set up a bank account for the claimants,” Capulso said.

Capulso and Damaso Fuentes, chief of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Division, also conducted a seminar of sorts for media practitioners to help disseminate information on the processing of claims.

(For more news about Western Visayas, click The Guardian.)

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