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European, Japanese firms line up for oil siphoning

October 26, 2006

DEFENSE Secretary Avelino Cruz on Thursday said three companies based in Norway, Japan and Britain are interested in conducting the oil-shiphoning operations in Guimaras Island.

The siphoning of the remaining bunker fuel from the sunken M/T Solar I is targeted to start in January to take advantage of good weather conditions.

Cruz said the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPCF) has agreed to pay for the operations, estimated to cost anywhere between $8 million and $10 million.

He added that based on the last inspection, the oil leak from the oil tanker was minimal and controllable. Solar 1, carrying at least two million liters of oil, sank off Guimaras on August 11. Officials said the oil spill had polluted at least 220 kilometers of coastline, fishing grounds, marine reserves and tourist spots.

Anthony Golez, National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) spokesman, earlier announced that the IOPC is set to formally approve the compensation funds for the Philippine government’s claim.

Included in the claims are compensation for the fishermen and villagers of Guimaras province whose livelihood and property were affected by the oil spill.

“By Friday in London, IOPCF will be concluding its meeting and [the government’s] claims will be signed and included in the minutes,” Golez announced.

Golez made the announcement after returning from London Wednesday where he met with IOPC officials and lobbied for the compensation claims.

“The papers were immediately processed and several member agencies or governments told us that the approval of the Philippines’ claims was the fastest in IOPCF history,” Golez said.

IOPCF has 125 government members. Its fund comes from contributions of member countries.

Golez said each government’s contribution is based on the profit in transactions with oil companies in its country. He said that the excess funds that cannot be shouldered by Solar 1’s insurance company will be paid by IOPCF.

He also advised Guimaras residents affected by the oil spill to speed up the completion and processing of their claim documents. (From ABS-CBN News, Oct. 26, 2006)

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