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One disaster after another

November 23, 2006

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BIG DEAL
By Dan Mariano

QUESTION: Where on this planet does an attempt to mitigate a country’s worst environmental disaster create an ecological catastrophe of its own?

Answer: Only in the Philippines.

When it sank off the coast of Plaridel, Misamis Occidental, around 11 p.m. Monday, the barge Ras was carrying 59,000 sacks of oil debris. The debris—about 600 metric tons—reportedly formed the last batch collected from Guimaras, off whose waters the 988-ton Solar 1 tanker sank on August 11 with over 2 million liters of bunker fuel in its hold.

A special board of marine inquiry found Petron, which had commissioned Solar 1, liable for overloading the tanker at the oil company’s fuel dock in Limay, Bataan. That case has yet to be officially closed, but here comes another.

It was no surprise that in its very first announcement on the Ras sinking, the country’s biggest oil company emphasized that it was the International Oil Pollution Commission that had hired the ill-fated barge.

Petron spokesmen added that the debris from Guimaras consisted of sand, rocks and vegetation to which part of the oil slick from Solar 1 had adhered. After months of exposure to the elements, the debris contained “hardly any toxic materials, much of which have already evaporated by now,” one of the spokesmen added.

(For the rest of the column, click Big Deal, Nov. 24, 2006.)

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