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Petron plays down spread of oil debris

November 23, 2006

• ‘A stupendous insult!’ – solon

By P. Isla, J. Mayuga
BusinessMirror, Nov. 23, 2006

LOCAL oil refiner Petron Corp. said Wednesday that about 30 pieces of sorbent booms used in the Guimaras clean-up efforts were recovered at the pier of Oroquieta City, Misamis Occidental. A total of 50 such 3-meter sorbent booms were reportedly loaded on Barge Ras, which sank about 5 kilometers northeast of Plaridel on the night of November 20. Oroquieta is 22 kilometers south of Plaridel.

The barge, owned and operated by Harbor Star, was contracted to ship out debris from the Solar 1 oil spill and bring it to a Holcim facility for treatment and disposal. According to the press release issued by Harbor Star, they were “collectively contracted” by the P&I Club, International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd., and the International Oil Spill Compensation Fund.

“Regardless of who owns the barge or who chartered it, Petron personnel are already in the field to do what is needed and minimize any impact that may arise from this incident,” said Petron Health, Safety and Environment manager Carlos V. Tan.

He assured the local populace that the used sorbent booms are designed to keep the absorbed oil in.

“In fact, not even traces of oily sheen were detected as the sorbent booms were recovered,” added Tan.

For its part, Harbor Star Shipping Services Inc. said it was collectively contracted by the P&I Club, International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Ltd. (ITOPF), and the International Oil Spill Compensation Fund (IOPC) in response to the oil spill of MT Solar 1 and has been helping Petron in the clean-up in Guimaras.

At around 11 p.m. on November 20, Harbor Star said Barge Ras loaded with 59,649 sacks of debris (consisting mostly of sand and stone with minimal oil residue) sank near Plaridel while enroute to Holcim’s facility in Lugait, Misamis Oriental.

Not everyone is convinced, though, that Petron has not been negligent.

“Another stupendous insult to our people, our environment and our laws!” said Rep. JR Nereus Acosta of Bukidnon, reacting to the second sinking.

“The first time [August 11 oil spill off the coast of Guimaras Island], Petron said it was an accident. We said they should face liabilities. For repeated delinquency, let us now fully exercise the rule of law for crimes such as this.”

Meanwhile, Natural Resources Secretary Angelo Reyes on Tuesday ordered the DENR’s officials in Misamis Occidental to monitor the sunken oil barge and the shorelines of Misamis Oriental, following reports that debris contaminated with oil had reached shore.

Reyes ordered Region 10 executive director Maximo Dichoso to assess the damage to the environment. The DENR chief met with Task Force SOS presided by DENR regional executive director Julian D. Amador following reports of the sinking of the barge carrying 59,000 sacks of oil debris from Guimaras.

No oil leak had been detected from the sunken barge as of Wednesday afternoon. Reyes was particularly alarmed by the situation in Plaridel because a leak could devastate the province’s fishing grounds.

Although Petron had taken charge of the immediate response to the incident, Reyes said there is still a possibility that the sacks filled with oil-contaminated debris may break down and harm marine life.

The Pambansang Lakas ng Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas called on Petron to set aside P1 billion to clean up the mess.

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