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Greenpeace urges Petron to hasten oil retrieval

October 25, 2006

• Protest message: ‘73 days and still ticking’

By Tarra Quismundo
Inquirer, Oct. 25, 2006

BUILDINGS, fences and every free surface in Makati City were turned into walls of protest on Monday night when environmental advocates toured the country’s financial district to rouse an oil giant allegedly sleeping on its responsibility for the country’s worst oil spill.

Armed with a powerful manual projector, members of Greenpeace Southeast Asia displayed around the city their demands for Petron Corp. to own up to its liability in the massive oil spill that hit the coasts of Guimaras and Iloilo.

“We have noticed that there are efforts to downplay the role of Petron in the oil spill, while it should be the one mainly accountable. We want to target the public to pressure Petron…this is the only way to neutralize the efforts to downplay its [liability],” said Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace toxics campaigner for Southeast Asia.

Like ticking time bomb

On walls, buildings and even the steel Metro Rail Transit (MRT) tracks over Guadalupe Bridge, Greenpeace volunteers directed messages urging Petron to pay for the retrieval of the MT Solar I, the Petron-chartered tanker which sank off Guimaras on Aug. 11 amid turbulent waters while carrying 2.1 million liters of bunker fuel oil.

“Guimaras is like a ticking time bomb. Why is it taking too long to retrieve the oil? The threat to marine life will continue until oil [in the tanker’s hold] is retrieved,” Baconguis told the Inquirer.

Among the messages displayed were “73 days and still ticking,” in reference to the number of days since oil began leaking from the Solar I, and “Petron, take the xtra-challenge,” a dare which parodies the oil firm’s commercial.

“Petron should take the challenge to stop the oil spill,” Baconguis said.

The group had originally planned to project the messages onto white cloth that volunteer climbers would hang from an empty billboard frame on the northbound side of EDSA’s Guadalupe stretch. But its projector proved powerless against the strong lights illuminating surrounding commercial billboards. The group then decided to use friendlier surfaces.

Monday night’s protest was part of Greenpeace’s effort to air its demand for Petron to “speed up the process of extracting the oil as soon as possible by guaranteeing the expected costs, immediately intensifying relief operations, committing to pay for the continuing cleanup, rehabilitating and monitoring the area (Guimaras), and compensating [affected] communities for [residents’] lost income since Aug. 11 up to at least a year,” the group said in a statement.

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