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Coast Guard, DENR debate on use of dispersants in oil hit mangroves

November 8, 2006

NATIONAL Disaster Coordinating Council chair Avelino Cruz and Task Force Solar 1 Oil Spill head Rafael Coscolluela last night directed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to issue an advisory that would ban any interventions and remediation measures to save the Guimaras mangroves not cleared with the DENR through the Regional Bio-Safety Committee.

The directive was issued after a reporting session on the status of oil-spill cleanup operations in Guimaras at the Department of National Defense last night turned into a debate between the Philippine Coast Guard on the one hand, and the DENR/World Wide Fund on the other, Cocolluela said.

MT Solar 1 that sank with 2.1 million liters of Petron bunker fuel in August caused an oil spill that has hit the coasts of Guimaras and its mangroves.

Concerned about dying mangrove trees in oil-affected areas, PCG Commander Allen Toribio pushed for the application of a “diluted dispersant/high-pressure water sprayer” combination as an effective way of saving affected mangrove trees, Coscolluela said.

DENR Undersecretary Manual Gerochi, WWF’s Lory Tan and other NDCC members objected, citing the absence of documented proof that the method actually worked as reported by Toribio, who cited their Semirara experience, he added.

The scientific community, according to Tan, was particularly concerned about the effect of dispersants on the marine food chain which might be adversely affected to the extent that fish populations would be reduced.

Such a scenario demanded that any such applications should be properly subjected to controlled field trials in carefully selected sites, Coscolluela said.

At the very least, Department of Science and Technology Secretary Estrella Fabela Alabastro and Department of Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said, the trials should pass the Environment Impact Assessment process mandated under DENR rules, Cosoclluela added.

The debate ended with the PCG’s Vice Admiral Gosingan accepting the proposed “no study, no touch” policy on condition that the DENR accept responsibility for any further mangrove mortalities, he said.

Coscolluela said the DENR advisory they directed would also seek to enlighten an equally-concerned public by explaining why such precautionary measures were deemed necessary.

Cruz and Coscolluela also called for field trials to test other measures that might be better options.

An appropriate statement is expected soon from DENR Regional Director Julian Amador, who heads the local bio-safety review committee, Coscolluela added. (Carla P. Gomez, Visayan Daily Star, Nov. 8, 2006)

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2 comments

  1. hello,

    I’m the writer of the french technical letter “lettre Environnement” (publishing group “Techniques de l’Ingénieur”). I’m going to write a paper on marine pollutions and especially on Solar I tragedy.

    If someone can give me some contacts or relay my message to people involved in the crisis management, it’ll be of great assistance.

    Thanks a lot, arnaud


  2. Hello Arnaud. I shall be emailing you shortly regarding the contact details of the officials handling the crisis management of the Petron oil spill.

    Thank you for dropping by.

    Stella



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