Experts still ‘clueless’ on oil spill damage, rehab

November 29, 2006

PCAMRD deputy director Cesar Pagdilao, NDCC executive officer Glenn Rabonza, WWF president Lorenzo Tan, UPV chancellor Dr. Glenn Aguilar (standing left) and Petron chair Nicasio Alcantara in a chit-chat before the press conference on the two-day scientific consultation on the Solar 1 Oil Spill. (FAA, The Guardian Iloilo)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo
The Guardian Iloilo
Nov. 29, 2006

HOW long will it take to rehabilitate Guimaras and how much will it cost to bring back the island to its feet after the devastating effects of the M/T Solar I oil spill?

Even the scientific community is still groping for answers as they continue to project the actual damage and the length and cost of rehabilitation of the island province.

Scientists, economists and sociologists yesterday concluded the two-day scientific conference on the Solar Oil Spill aimed at laying down the foundations for the rehabilitation of Guimaras, 109 days after the worst ecological accident in the country hit Guimaras on August 11.

After the presentation of 43 various papers on the environmental, social and economic effects of the oil spill, figures on the actual damage and duration of the rehabilitation process have yet to be determined.

The conference was spearheaded by the University of the Philippines-Visayas (UPV), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Petron Corp.

Dr. Glenn Aguilar, UPV chancellor, said the conference was meant to integrate all scientific findings of “rapid assessments” conducted in the aftermath of the oil spill.

Aguilar said it is very difficult to come up with an overall status of Guimaras as the scientific studies were done on a component basis.

“Each assessment was conducted in their own unique focus and time frame although the same methodology was used. We still have to polish and strengthen their findings so we can come up with a holistic picture (of the island). The studies were done on a very rapid manner so we must give the experts time to fix their reports,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar said the outputs of the two-day conference were not very detailed and will be subject to another gathering after Christmas break.

The UPV chancellor also debunked notions that the assessments, particularly on the environment and health aspects, were conflicting.

“The data presented even reinforced each study. We will just have to subject them to a more focused discussion and intensive polishing of the experts,” Aguilar said.

Lory Tan, WWF president, said the lack of data on oil spill in tropical countries like the Philippines is hampering the projections on rehabilitation of the island.

Tan said the conference achieved the aim of extracting data which will be used to map out protocols and responses to similar ecological accidents.

Interestingly, Guimaras Governor JC Rahman Nava was absent in the press conference. But General Glenn Rabonza, executive officer of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, said Nava already has a plan for their province “which will be enriched by the scientific data.”

The conference was attended by more than 100 participants who discussed major topics on biological, physico-chemical and fisheries, socio-economics and health aspects of the oil spill.

One of the scientific results Aguilar presented during the press conference was the effects of the oil spill on mangroves.

At present, 45 percent of mangroves in Guimaras are contaminated with five of 30 species already dying.

Rapid assessments also show no massive destruction of corals. Mortalities were also notices in some seagrass areas covered by all but the effects are insignificant in terms of total cover.

MORE ‘clueless’ news in SunStar and Visayan Daily Star. Pity.


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