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Govt more prepared in case of oil spills

November 21, 2006

By Jonathan Mayuga
Correspondent
BusinessMirror, Nov. 21, 2006

ENVIRONMENT Secretary Angelo Reyes on Monday said the government is now more prepared in dealing with oil spills, particularly on Manila Bay and surrounding areas with the signing of the Manila Bay Oil Spill Contingency Plan.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) ensuring the implementation of the oil spill contingency plan for Manila Bay was signed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) with the Armed Forces, local governments, oil companies and nongovernment organizations.

The government and the private sector are now ready to implement measures that will provide early warning or exchange of information as well as measures to control oil spills, Reyes said.

He said the August 11 sinking of the M/T Solar 1 off Guimaras Island and the magnitude of the damage done by that oil spill had the government and the private sector realize what kind of hazards oil spills pose to coastal and marine resources, as well as the health and livelihood of the people.

The agreement provides for the speedy cooperation among those involved for the mobilization of resources and equipment and sharing of information and trained personnel to be able to act promptly and effectively.

The groups that have interest in controlling oil spills will also forge partnerships with donor agencies, international and intergovernment organizations and industry associations in undertaking capacity-building programs through access to financial and in-kind support.

The other signatories to the agreement are the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Health, Department of Finance, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and various local governments of Metro Manila’s coastal cities and towns, that include Manila, Las Piñas, Navotas, Malabon, Pasay and Parañaque.

The coastal provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Pampanga and Bataan, and all major oil companies are also signatories to the MOU.

The MOU noted the collaborative activities between the DENR and the various stakeholders under the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy and its operation plan adopted on October 21, 2001, and May 10, 2006 to prevent oil spills.

The signatories are required to meet annually and hold ad hoc meetings in case of emergencies, maintain communication, promote research on antipollution measures, and work out the expeditious deployment of personnel, materials and equipment in case of emergency.

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, meanwhile, reiterated its call to Petron Corp. to set aside P10 billion for the rehabilitation of Guimaras Island, that was severely affected by the massive oil spill in August.

Pamalakaya made the call a day after Petron announced that the oil-spill victims would soon receive compensation from the London-based International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund.

“The compensation package from OIPC is a separate and different thing. It should not be viewed as Petron’s effort to address the material and financial requirements of social and economic rehabilitation,” Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap said in a statement.

According to Hicap, Petron is legally and morally obliged to set aside an initial cash bond for the speedy recovery and rehabilitation of Guimaras environment and more importantly, the people who were affected by the spill.

Earlier, Petron urged local court to dismiss the cases filed against the oil company for lack of merit, asserting that it should not be blamed for the freak accident that led top the discharge of an undetermined portion of the 2.19 million liters of bunker fuel on board M/T Solar 1 on August 11.

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