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Visayas governors to push tanker removal

September 26, 2006

BY CARLA GOMEZ
Visayan Daily Star, Sept. 26, 2006

PRESIDENTIAL Adviser for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela yesterday assured that the government is committed to remove the sunken bunker fuel on board MT Solar I.

He also assured that the rules on the use of chemical dispersants are being enforced by the Coast Guard to accomplish its goal of dispersing the tanker’s oil spill while still at sea rather than risks its reaching shore where it can become a bigger problem.

“If the dispersants are used according to guidelines the potential damage on the environment is minimized,” Coscolluela, head of the Solar Oil Spill Task Force, said.

The Oil Pollution Compensation Fund executive committee is meeting in London in October to come up with a final decision on when and how to extract the bunker fuel on board MT Solar 1 that sank in the Panay Gulf on Aug. 11, he said.

The IOPC is an inter-governmental group that provides compensation for oil pollution damage resulting from taker spills.

The MT Solar 1 sank with 2.1 million liters of bunker fuel, the bulk of which is at the bottom of the sea, while the oil spill it has caused has hit the coasts of Guimaras and Iloilo and is threatening Negros Occidental.

Negros Occidental Gov. Joseph Marañon yesterday said the governors of the Visayas are meeting in Manila on Oct. 4 where he expects they will come out with a collective position demanding the immediate removal of the sunken fuel.

It is the obligation of the owner of MT Solar 1 and Petron to remove the sunken fuel and we have the right to demand it, he said.

Coscolluela said the national government is committed to the removal of the sunken bunker fuel and is for its being siphoned out.

The Philippine government is, however, waiting for the IOPC to come out with its decision on the process, he said.

We will try to emphasize to them the urgency of the need to come up with some action before the change in the direction of the monsoon winds, he said.

If the IOPC does not come out with the decision for the removal of the sunken fuel then the Philippine government will undertake it itself, he said.

As to the alarm raised that oil dispersants will cause more harm than good to marine life, Coscolluela said “we raised such concern ourselves sometime ago and it has been addressed”.

As much as possible we do not want to use the dispersants but it was a choice between that or allowing the oil spill to hit shores and cause more damage, he said.

In order for dispersants not to be damaging to the marine life he said it must not be used in depths of 100 feet and near the shore, and the chemicals used must be accredited by the Coast Guard, he said. He said the dispersants are now being used at depths way beyond 100 feet, he said. If there were any other way to avoid using chemical dispersants we would do it, he said.

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