Guimarasnons belie Petron ‘safe’ reportOctober 14, 2006
CLEAN? Rumagangrang Beach owner Timoteo Gatuteo Jr. shows the oil-stained beach covered by ‘clean’ stones and sand from the sea. Gatuteo says Petron Corp. requested him to cover his stained beach with ‘clean’ stones and sand because ‘there was a visitor coming’ that day. Visitor? Perhaps, the media… (Photo from the Panay News web site)
By DAVID ISRAEL SINAY
Panay News, Oct. 13, 2006
GUIMARAS – Residents interviewed by Panay News belied the pronouncement of Petron Corp. and the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) that Guimaras is now “safe” and “clean.”
“(Petron and NDCC’s) statements are not true,” said Mayor Diosdado Gonzaga of Nueva Valencia. He agrees with his constituents.
Of all the municipalities of Guimaras, Nueva Valencia is the worst hit by the oil spill from the Petron-chartered MT Solar 1.
In press conferences last Tuesday and Wednesday, the NDCC and Petron declared some areas of the province “clean” and that hydrogen sulfide fumes from oil-stained shores are within “safe” levels.
“When they (members of Task Force Guimaras and officials of Petron) declared that the shores were already clean and safe, my constituents (those living onshore) called to ask if they can go home,” Gonzaga said.
The mayor insists that “the problem remains.” He said they were not consulted prior to the declaration made by NDCC spokesperson Dr. Anthony Golez.
“I was surprised,” Gonzaga said. “They should (have) verified (with us) so that residents will not be confused,” Gonzaga added.
Meanwhile, Nueva Valencia Municipal Health Officer Sheila Gumabong said, “we have not released any report that (the levels of hydrogen sulfide emissions here) is (now) safe. I don’t know were they (NDCC and Petron) got such report.”
“We cannot declare anything safe here. We continuously take drinking water samples for analysis. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, on the other hand, checks the seawater for t he possible presence of chemicals,” Gumabong added.
In Manila yesterday, Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr., concurrent NDCC chairman, said the first phase of the cleanup is finished and disaster officials said are now making preparations to siphon off the remaining bunker fuel from the sunken tanker M/T Solar 1.
Phase two of the cleanup involves crafting an environmental rehabilitation plan.
The rehabilitation plan, to be drafted by the environment and science departments, would “bring back mangroves, sea grass, and coral reefs to where they were )before the oil spill),” Cruz said.
Solar 1 sank August 11 in the Guimaras Strait and officials estimate it has leaked out between 200,000 to 1.3 million of the two million liters of bunker fuel it was carrying. An estimated 120 liters continues to leak from the sunken ship everyday.
An investigation by the Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI) concluded that overloading, bad weather, and the incompetence of the ship’s captain and crew led to the sinking of the vessel. Two of the tanker’s crewmen are still missing.
Cruz said the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) was expected to approve by October 23 the oil siphoning operations.
The IOPC, an international organization of petroleum companies, has agreed to pay $30 million to $40 million for the cleanup and compensation of those affected by the oil slick, he said.
Cruz said officials were two weeks into a six-month “complex engineering” study to plan the siphoning, which could cost from $8 million to $10 million.
A European company will be commissioned to remove out the remaining oil inside the tanker, which could take between 30 to 45 days to finish, he said.