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Coast Guard: We told you so…

November 22, 2006

By Francis Allan L. Angelo
The Guardian Iloilo,
Nov. 22, 2006

THE use of open barges to transport oily debris from Guimaras Island has been a contentious issue for government agencies managing the response to the country’s worst oil spill.

In fact, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Western Visayas already warned disaster managers that barges pose the risk of a second oil spill if the vessel fails to meet specifications and designs set by concerned agencies.

The sinking of Barge Ras, which was carrying more than 600 metric tons of oily debris, off the coast of Plaridel, Misamis Occidental Monday evening somehow proved the PCG’s contention.

Yan na nga ang sinasabi ko noong una that a barge is not fit to carry hazardous cargo in bulk. Barges have a different design compared to vessels that are more ideal to carry dangerous loads such as oil debris,” said Capt. Luis Tuason Jr. PCG-Western Visayas commander.

The Coast Guard tried to convince Task Force Solar Oil Spill, the inter-agency body dealing with the Guimaras oil spill, on the hazards of using barges in carrying oily debris from Guimaras but to no avail.

Tuason said the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) amended regulations on the issuance of special permits to transport hazardous cargos in bulk, thus allowing the use of barges to ship out the debris from Guimaras.

Tuason said he sent a letter to Presidential assistant for Region 6 Rafael Lito Coscolluela and Marina expressing his opposition to the said move.

“I told them that we will respect the Marina’s decision to clear the barges to carry the oily debris but as far as my opinion is concerned, it is not right,” Tuason said.

The PCG chief said it is safer to carry hazardous cargo in sealed packages loaded on closed vessels such as tankers.

In the case of Guimaras, the debris is contained in sacks and covered with tarpaulins.

What surprised Tuason is when Marina asked them to inspect the barges after issuing the special permits. He said the inspection should have been conducted before the permit was given.

Parang hugas kamay yun (It’s like washing their hands of the responsibility). We already told them that we are not amenable to using the barges but they still want us to inspect the vessels before going to Lugait in Misamis Oriental. And they want the inspection conducted after the permit has been issued,” Tuason said.

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