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‘It’s practical to bury oil debris in Guimaras’

October 13, 2006

By Francis Allan L. Angelo
The Guardian, Oct. 13, 2006

DISASTER managers are toying with the idea of burying the remaining oil sludge in Guimaras.

Presidential adviser for Western Visayas Rafael Lito Coscolluela said the experience of Semirara Island in Antique might be applied on Guimaras.

An oil spill also occurred in Semirara last December after a power barge owned by the National Power Corp. ran aground in the island’s shorelines spilling over 100,000 liters of bunker fuel.

Coscolluela said he visited the dumping site in Semirara where the collected oil sludge was disposed. The bottom of the pit was lined up with cement to prevent the oil from seeping into underground water sources.

Coscolluela said oil will decompose if left alone. He also noticed vegetation growing on top of the pit, an indication that the bunker oil was turning into fertilizer.

But Coscolluela said he will let the scientific community study the feasibility of dumping the oily debris in Guimaras.

The prospect of burying the oil sludge in Guimaras is also an experiment of sorts in preparation for new oil spills that might occur in the country.

“We want to use this idea not just in Guimaras but as basis for future actions if and when something like this happens again. What we’d like to do is ask the scientific community to do a formal assessment of that approach and tell us whether this can be more practical than shipping out the oil to be burned somewhere else. In my personal observation, it is more practical assuming the oil is handled well,” Coscolluela said.

As to proposals on what to do with the sunken Solar 1, International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPCF) deputy director John Nichols said he is strongly endorsing the siphoning of the remaining oil inside the tanker.

The Guimaras incident is included in the agenda of the IOPCF executive committee meeting on October 23, 2006 in London.

Nichols said he is “99.99 percent sure” that the executive committee will go by his recommendation.

“If it does not come true, I will have to shoot myself,” he said.

Nichols said the actual siphoning operations might begin between December 2006 and January 2007 although he cannot give a definite timetable due to technological considerations.

While Guimaras folks are waiting for the IOPCF decision on what to do with Solar 1, Nichols allayed fears of a second oil spill.

There are far more oil going into sea from land based sources than Solar 1. Oil from factories goes to drains which then empty into rivers and seas. The level of contamination from Solar 1 is very small. The tanker is very stable as it is buried in the seabed,” Nichols said.

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