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UK firm screens oil spill claimants

November 20, 2006

FISHERMEN and resort owners whose livelihood and businesses were adversely affected by the oil spill off the coast of Guimaras in August 2006 will soon receive compensation from the London-based International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Fund.

An official of Petron Corp. said Sunday that the IOPC was ready to issue check payments to municipal fisherfolk and resort owners as compensation for the damages wrought by the oil spill, which has been dubbed as the worst in Philippine history.

A team from the IOPC is scheduled to arrive on Monday for a meeting with local government officials of the provinces of Guimaras and Iloilo, who have been processing the claims for damages of fishermen and resort owners.

“They hope to be able to pay out the claims as soon as possible… If the claims and their criteria meet, then they can be ready to issue checks,” Petron environment officer Carlos Tan said in a press conference in Manila Sunday.

He said the IOPC, led by Deputy Director Joe Nichols, would be meeting first with the National Disaster Coordinating Council also on Monday before flying to Iloilo to meet with local government officials.

Tan said the IOPC team, which would be staying in the Philippines for over a week to review the claims, wanted to expedite the processing of claims lodged by fishermen, the biggest casualties of the oil spill.

Records from the Department of Social Welfare and Development showed that around 4,500 families have been affected by the oil spill, of which 3,000 to 4,000 were fishermen who have no other source of livelihood.

“The reason the payment has been delayed is because the IOPC wanted to counter-check individually if the claims were real,” Tan said.

He added that fisherfolk who have no documents to submit to the IOPC have authorized their governor, congressmen or mayor to facilitate their applications for claims.

The IOPC, of which the Philippines is a member, can shell out a maximum of US$301 million for rehabilitation and other activities that may be needed to address the problems caused by the oil spill, which damaged mangrove forests and marine life in the affected areas.

An oil tanker carrying an estimated 2.19 million liters of bunker fuel sank in rough waters off Guimaras on August 11, causing the oil spill that contaminated the coasts of the island. (Cebu Daily News/Inquirer, Nov. 20, 2006)

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