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IOPC offers to offload tanker’s oil; Iggy pushes Belgian firm for oil siphoning

September 20, 2006

By Ronilo Pamonag
The Philippine Star 09/20/2006

ILOILO CITY — An international group of oil refiners has offered to facilitate the offloading of the remaining oil from the sunken tanker Solar I, Guimaras Gov. JC Rahman Nava said yesterday.

Nava said the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) had offered to hire the services of a company that could siphon off oil from Solar I. “They know what is to be done,” Nava said of IOPC. He said IOPC will shoulder the expenses for the undertaking.

The Sunstar Bacolod also reported Monday that another foreign company with expertise in oil siphoning is committed to help the Philippine Government in case it decide to siphon the remaining bunker fuel from m/t Solar I that is still lying at the belly of Guimaras sea.

This is the Core Air Company in Brussels, Belgium, said Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo of the 5th District of Negros Occidental, who is still in Brussels for an official business transaction. Arroyo is brother of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.

The solon said he was delighted with the commitment of Core Air officials.

Petron Corp., which chartered the ill-fated tanker to transport two million liters of oil to Zamboanga, is a member of IOPC. Solar I sank off Guimaras on Aug. 11.

“It’s a welcome development, but we don’t have much choice,” Gov. Nava said. “At least I’m thankful that we have IOPC which has committed to siphon the oil.”

He said it would take about six weeks to set up the necessary equipment.

Nava said siphoning of the oil is the “first attempt” at dealing with the country’s worst oil spill, which has affected coastal communities in the provinces of Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental.

Philippine Coast Guard “on scene” commander Harold Jarder said offloading the oil from a sunken tanker is complex and delicate work. But he stressed the hardest part is the deployment and setting up of equipment and not the actual siphoning in which powerful pumps are used.

Either this week or next, a team of experts is due to arrive in Guimaras to assess the situation in preparation for the offloading, Nava said.

The tanker is 600 meters underwater, about 16 nautical miles off the southern coast of Guimaras. It is still leaking oil, but not as much as in the first weeks of the tragedy, the PCG observed.

Health problems rising

In a related development, cases of oil spill-related health problems continue to rise.

As of yesterday, there were 1,724 people diagnosed with signs and symptoms of illnesses related to the oil spill, according to a status report by Task Force Solar I Oil Spill (SOS).

On Sept. 12, the number of sick people was placed at 1,414 from 985 on Sept. 8; 677 on Sept. 5; and 329 on Aug. 25.

The majority of those affected, at 1,645, are from Guimaras and the rest are from Iloilo.

The regional office of the Department of Health, however, clarified that the increase in the number may also be due to the fact that an affected person may exhibit two or more symptoms.

“Signs and symptoms of respiratory illness remained to be the main common conditions reported during the consultations, which is 57.93 percent out of 1,645 cumulative total of signs and symptoms,” the status report stated. (with Sunstar Bacolod)

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