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Siphoning of remaining bunker oil delayed anew

November 24, 2006

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Joel Weston, Sonsub Regional Manager for Asia-Pacific, explains to the media the process of recovering the remaining oil from sunken vessel MT Solar I. (Photo by A. Chris Fernandez, The News Today, Nov. 24, 2006)

By MONTESA GRIÑO
Visayan Daily Star, Nov. 24, 2006

GUIMARAS – In a move that will surely make environmentalists angry, the siphoning of the remaining bunker oil from the sunken M/T Solar 1 on Guimaras Strait is being moved back from the already very delayed January 2007 schedule, to February or March.

The Singapore-based Sonsub company had been tapped to do the siphoning, announced its regional manager for the Asia-Pacific region, Joel Weston. He met the media yesterday.

It was earlier reported that a Norwegian company was being eyed to siphon the remaining bunker fuel and that it would commence the work in January. This angered environmental activists who warned that the tanker is an ecological time bomb.

The longer the oil stays in the strait, the worse the destruction it will bring to marine life in the affected area, they stressed.

Weston said the siphoning may make 25 days. Right now, Sonsub is preparing the needed equipments and personnel, he added.

Petron Corp. will be paying Sonsub six to eight million dollars for the operation, Weston said.

The sunken M/T Solar 1 was chartered by Petron supposedly to ferry its over two million liters of bunker fuel from Luzon to Mindanao. The tanker, however, sank at the rough Guimaras Strait in August, causing a massive oil spill that displaced thousands of Guimaras residents affected the island’s marine ecosystem.

Petron claimed to be on the second phase of its clean-up operation in Guimaras when another of its chartered vessel sank. This time, it’s a barge tasked to ferry the oil spill debris collected in Guimaras.

COMPENSATION

Around 13,000 fisher folks displaced by the oil spill may get their compensation claims before this year ends.

According to Joe Nichols of the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Fund, they now have the names of all the claimants.

“The claims vary… (These are relative to) damage (caused) by the oil spill to the livelihood of each affected fisherman and their fishing activity,” he stressed.

Nichols said some of the fishermen will received P6,000 while others as much as P30,000.

The compensation to be given to laborers tapped for the clean-up operation would be different.

“So far, no claimant had been disqualified,” Nichols said.

PROBE

In Manila, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered multi-agency Task Force Guimaras to investigate the sinking of the barge — carrying the collected oil spill debris from Guimaras — off Misamis Occidental.

This aims to help authorities plan strategies so damage to humans and the environment can be minimized.

“The President expressed concern about this unfortunate incident and tasked agencies concerned led by Task Force Guimaras to get to the bottom of it,” said Presidential Spokesman and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye.

Arroyo created the task force this year to address concerns like environmental clean-up and rehabilitation, as well as livelihood assistance to oil spill victims in Guimaras.

The environment, transportation, energy, social welfare and health departments as well as Philippine Coast Guard compose Task Force Guimaras.

Malacañang is optimistic that the damage arising from the barge’s sinking won’t be as extensive as what hit Guimaras which continues to reel after the sinking of MT Solar I.
During a Palace briefing, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that since the debris were packed in containers, the Palace expects minor damages arising from the mishap.

MARINE INQUIRY

The captain and crew members of the barge have been summoned to appear before the Special Board of Marine Inquiry today.

The captain and crew members of barge Ras will face the Special Board of Marine Inquiry in the Philippine Coast Guard headquarters in Cagayan de Oro at 10 a.m.
The captain maintained in his sworn affidavit that the vessel capsized after the water entered the barge’s hatch.

Authorities said the site where the barge sank as well as the shorelines of Oroquieta, Lopez Jaena and Polo Point in Misamis Occidental were free from oil sheen but the local government still demanded for the immediate retrieval of oil debris.

Petron said that the barge and the debris would no longer be salvaged because these pose no environmental threat.

Ras was on its way to Lugait, Misamis Oriental to transfer over 50,000 sacks of oil debris from Guimaras when it capsized, raising fears that the debris might affect the community and the marine environment of the province.

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