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Governor, green group mulls raps vs Petron, barge owner

November 23, 2006

By Lizanilla J. Amarga
SunStar Cagayan de Oro
Nov. 23, 2006

MISAMIS Occidental Governor Loreto Ocampos and a local environmental group Wednesday threatened to slap Petron Corp. and shipping company Harbor Star damage suits for the sinking of a barge carrying oil-soaked debris gathered from cleaning up the Guimaras oil spill at Plaridel, Misamis Occidental.

The regional office of the Environmental Management Board (EMB) is preparing their water sample tests as well as looking into the hiring of an expert marine biologist to have an independent assessment of the impact the incident would have on the environment.

But Defense Secretary and National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) Chairman Avelino Cruz convened Taskforce Guimaras and immediately issued a statement declaring the oil soaked debris from Guimaras harmless.

Barge Ras, which was carrying around 59,000 sacks of oil debris from the August 11 sinking of the 988-ton Solar 1 tanker off Guimaras island, sank about five kilometers northeast of Plaridel, Misamis Occidental last Monday around 11:10 p.m.

The Barge Ras was towed by Tugboat Vega to Lugait, Misamis Oriental when it sank due to rough seas.

The barge, which was owned and operated by Harbor Star, was contracted by Petron Corp. to ship out debris from the Solar 1 oil spill and bring it to Holcim Cement at Lugait, Misamis Oriental for processing.

In separate interviews with Sun.Star Wednesday, Ocampos and Partido Kalikasan chairman Manuel Ravenera said they are now looking into the filing of charges against Petron Corp. and Harbor Star.

Assessment

Ravanera said they are now conducting their own independent probe on the incident and thinking of filing charges after assessment of the pertinent facts.

In a statement furnished to this paper, Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Beau Baconguis said oil firm Petron Corp. is to blame for this incident that spilled 600 tons of oil debris in Misamis Occidental waters just as that of the Guimaras Island incident.

Baconguis said the national government should hold Petron Corp. accountable to the “fullest extent of the law” over this latest incident “whether it is due to gross negligence or plain stupidity.”

“Petron has yet to fully answer for its disastrous oil spill in Guimaras, but here it is again with another environmental disaster in the making,” he said.

EMB Regional Director Abdullah Abubacar said he has issued two orders in relation to the incident.

He said the first was on initiating an immediate water-sampling test in the area where Barge Ras sank “to determine the level of contamination.”

Abubacar said they were informed that the 59,000 sacks of oil debris are composed of sand and gravel “with oil slick stuck to them, thus, it is highly unlikely that oil will surface.”

“The water sampling is part of our precautionary measure,” he said. “We’re just praying that the oil debris won’t scatter. That’s why they need to get to it as soon as possible.”

Abubacar said he has also issued a letter to Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Regional Director Dichoso to ask him if it would be possible to hire an expert marine biologist who would determine the over-all environmental impact of the incident.

NDCC spokesman Anthony Golez in a statement said the oil debris that spilled in the waters off Misamis Occidental does not pose any danger to the province’s marine environment.

Golez said the team dispatched to Plaridel town to check on the sunken barge Ras saw no oil sheen from the site.

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