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Guimaras moves to revive fishing

October 27, 2006

By Jaime Laude
The Philippine Star 10/27/2006

A come-on for fisher folk to return to fishing following the Aug. 11 oil spill could just be the start of an annual festival in the province of Guimaras.

Rafael Coscolluela, presidential adviser for the Western Visayas and Task Force Guimaras regional chairman, has broached the idea of holding a fiesta in the island province where fish caught from waters off the province will be cooked and served to fishermen and other residents.

“We would like to advise the people to (get) back into fishing and start eating fish,” he said.

Speaking to reporters at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday, Coscolluela said the festival will be known as “Balik Isda” to encourage residents to return to fishing.

“It would be done soon,” he said.

However, there is no date yet for the fish festival, he added.

Coscolluela assured Guimaras residents that the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has already certified that the fish around Guimaras are safe to eat.

Following the oil spill, fish caught in waters off Guimaras are not sold in the market or eaten because residents fear that they could be poisonous.

During the press conference, Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr., National Disaster Coordinating Council chairman, gave an update on efforts to rid the sunken M/T Solar I of its remaining bunker fuel cargo.

Meanwhile, an international fund on oil pollution is set to process the claims of some 3,000 to 4,000 fishermen whose sources of livelihood were affected by the oil spill from a sunken tanker off the island of Guimaras, the government said yesterday.

Cruz said the Guimaras provincial government and the office of Rep. Edgar Espinosa are helping affected constituents gather the necessary documents required by the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) to process their monetary claims.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Cruz said this would be done to ensure that the fisherfolk would be paid compensation before the government files its claims before the IOPC.

Marami ng claims ng fishermen, ang na-submit sa IOPC para naman matugunan ang claims ng mga nawalan ng trabaho (“There are several claims from fishermen already submitted to the IOPC, so the claims of those who lost their livelihood could be attended to),” he said. “The provincial government came up with an agreement with the claimants in order for them to comply with IOPC requirements.”

Cruz said this would ensure that the claims would be reasonable based on actual income lost and expenses incurred because of the oil spill.

Resort owners in the area are making their own negotiations with the IOPC, he added.

Cruz said with the provincial government helping residents process their claims, there would be less chances for bloating declared losses and expenses.

Industry standards would determine how much a fisherman earns for a day, which would be multiplied by the number of days since the oil spill took place, he added.

Dr. Anthony Golez, Office of Civil Defense administrator, said the IOPC would pay for whatever claims that cannot be shouldered by the insurance company of the ill-fated M/T Solar I, which sank off Guimaras with thousands of liters of oil on Aug. 11.

The tanker was hired by Petron Corp. to deliver bunker fuel to Zamboanga.

Meanwhile, Cruz said the IOPC executive committee is set to come out with a resolution today approving the proposed siphoning of the remaining bunker fuel inside the sunken tanker, some 600 meters under the sea. — With James Mananghaya

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