No clean bill of health yet for oil-hit towns

October 16, 2006

By Francis Allan L. Angelo
The Guardian Iloilo, Oct. 16, 2006

THE Municipal Health Office of Nueva Valencia, Guimaras has yet to declare the town clean and safe from the bunker oil spilled by the ill-fated M/T Solar 1 even as Petron Corp. confirmed it was wrapping up cleanup operations in the island.

Dr. Shiela Gumabong, Nueva Valencia health officer, said they were still validating reports that contaminated villages in the town were already cleared of the oil sludge.

While she cannot make an official statement, Gumabong said they have not issued a clean bill of health on the 12 affected barangays of Nueva Valencia.

Gumabong said the Department of Health and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are still conducting in-depth tests on the affected areas.

The tests include ambient air, freshwater supply and seawater examinations.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) earlier said several villages of Guimaras are already cleared of oil debris and are safe from the effects of toxic fumes emanating from the bunker fuel.

But residents and barangay officials in six Nueva Valencia villages debunked the NDCC pronouncement to a group of mediamen that conducted a surprise visit in the town.

The villagers showed to the media group the remaining oil sludge buried in the sand or painted over with cement.

Meanwhile, Petron Foundation executive director Malou Erni said they have reduced the workforce and workdays in areas that were already cleared of the oily debris.

As they wind down the clean-up activity, Erni said they will begin the alternative livelihood and rehabilitation program for Guimaras.

Petron owns the spilled bunker fuel which contaminated hundreds of hectares of mangroves and fishing grounds in Guimaras and Iloilo.

The work slowdown has also been a concern for Nueva Valencia residents who have yet to return to fishing.

Nueva Valencia was hit hardest by the worst oil spill in the country.


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