Archive for December, 2006

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Nueva Valencia fishers to receive oil spill damages on Jan. 8

December 30, 2006

SOME 5,000 affected fisherfolk in Nueva Valencia, the worst hit municipality in Guimaras from Solar I oil spill, will get their claims on Jan. 8, 2007.

This, after the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPCF) finished releasing compensation checks in three towns – San Lorenzo, Sibunag and Jordan.

Nueva Valencia residents have been clamoring for the release of their oil spill compensation which was promised to be given them this Christmas season.

But corrections in the official entries of name and addresses of the oil spill claimants delayed the release of the checks.

IOPCF returned the master list of claimants to the municipal government of Nueva Valencia after it was found out that there were duplicitous claims, meaning the names of the claimants were submitted to the IOPCF twice.

The residents of Brgy. Tando, one of the worst hit coastal villages in Nueva Valencia, had been waiting for their checks as fishing activities in the village continue to drop.

“We have few catch here compared to last year. We are very much affected with the oil spill. Our only hope is the release of our oil spill claims so that we have something to spend for Christmas and New Year,” said Tando barangay captain Olivia Evangelista.

Meanwhile, Provincial Legal Officer Plaridel Nava denied reports that the venue for the releasing of compensation checks will be transferred to Guimaras from the original venue at the fifth floor of the Iloilo Provincial Capitol.

“As per letter of the IOPCF to Gov. JC Rahman Nava, the venue remains in Iloilo City,” Nava said.

IOPCF requires the claimants to personally get their check and to present two valid identification cards either from SSS, GSIS, BIR TIN card, driver’s license, passport, Philhealth, Postal ID, company ID, voter’s registration record and senior citizen ID. (Balita.org, Dec. 30, 2006)

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ABS-CBN News’ 2006 Year in Review

December 30, 2006

Oil spill in Guimaras

WEARING rubber gloves and using dishwashing liquid and a scouring pad, Remmy Cayanan was busy scrubbing rocks on the beach of Nueva Valencia town in Guimaras. With a bitter smile, she laments the loss of their clean sea “Eto wala na ang malinis na dagat namin (Our unpolluted waters are gone).”

For P500 a day, Remmy was among those hired by Petron Corporation to help in cleaning up the black greasy mess on the coastline of the town for two weeks.

On August 11, the M/T Solar 1 owned by Sunshine Maritime Corporation and carrying some 200,000 liters of bunker fuel oil of Petron, sank off the coast of Guimaras. Thousands of liters of bunker fuel oil found its way on the pristine beaches of the island province, also famous for its sweet and succulent golden yellow mangoes.

In a letter to Petron president Khalid Al-Faddagh, the provincial government of Guimaras declared these statistics: 239 kilometers of coastlines affected; 58 hectares of seaweed plantations damaged; 105 hectares of mangrove areas hit; 1,180 fisherfolks who temporarily lost their jobs; and numerous cases of respiratory illnesses and stomach and skin disorders reported. Accordingly, this is the worst oil spill in the country.

Days after local and international uproar, Petron and Sunshine Maritime have owned up to the responsibility for the oil spill. But the bulk of the task of rehabilitating Guimaras now lies on the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund, an international body whose mission is partly to provide financial assistance to residents affected by massive oil spills.

Despite claims made by Petron that the physical cleanup of the affected coastlines is 100-percent complete, traces of oil can still be found on the beaches of Guimaras. Complete rehabilitation is another thing and it may take several years.

It is thus painfully difficult for Remmy to erase from her memories the black smudge on the white-sand beaches of her province, especially after toiling under the hot sun just to clean up the mess left by the sunken ship. But she is fervently hoping that in due time, fish will thrive once more in their waters, vulnerable mangroves will soon recover and their simple and quiet lives in Guimaras will be back.

(For the rest of the yearender, click ABS-CBN News, Dec. 30, 2006.)

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2006: Maritime’s most disastrous year

December 30, 2006

IN MY PACK By Ruth G. Mercado
The Freeman 12/30/2006

2006 may well be remembered in the maritime industry as the and most catastrophic year since the 1987 sinking of the Doña Paz. With most accidents happening in Cebu and Eastern Visayas, the ghastly spate of tragedies ought to shed a straightforward assessment as to whether the outsourcing arrangement between Coast Guard and the Maritime Industry Authority was effective or if there was faithful enforcement of maritime safety. It would also have laid bare impediments why regulations on wooden-hulled ships are taking so long to finalize and implement.

Sadly and surprisingly, maritime and Coast Guard, who are supposed to be in the business of tracking disasters, seem remotely aware of the horrific phenomenon. In a striking demeanor of nonchalance, there seems little care by authorities in taking a hard, serious look about why disasters are happening and happening successively.

Nevertheless, in the absence of an official list from Coast Guard and Marina, The Freeman has made its own tally based on investigative coverage. Nationwide, there were at least 15 maritime disasters and mishaps in 2006 including such high profile cases as fire onboard MV Asia Philippines, Superferry 12 and Heaven Star and the murder of a former Biliran governor onboard MV Cagayan Princess. Well-etched in maritime history are the oil spills in Guimaras and Misamis, the disappearance of MV Zarraga, cargo ship collision, and several incidents involving wooden ships in the sinking of motorized bancas in Cebu, Surigao and Pangasinan. At least 50 people have perished in all these accidents and while there are no confirmed figures, there is no quantifiable proof on the millions of pesos worth of property and marine life lost in the Guimaras and Misamis oil spills.

Marina administrator Vicente Suazo has since belittled the peculiar coincidence of accidents and dismissed speculations that a curse may haunt the maritime industry. In Cebu for instance, two ships caught fire at mid-sea exactly a month apart in almost the same circumstances. The MV Superferry 12 caught fire at its top decks in the morning of March 9 and exactly a month later on April 9, an early morning fire erupted on the top decks of MV Heaven Star. Initial inspection point to lighted cigarette as probable cause of both fires. While the Superferry 12 fire damaged all suites at the top deck, the Heaven Star fire burned eight life rafts and decommissioned 42 bunks.

Then while 19 were believed to have perished when motor banca SunJay sank off the coasts of Southern Leyte in January, some 19 were also presumed dead when motor banca Leonida II sank at Bilisan Island, Surigao in November.

Anti-oil pollution laws, which remain non-existent in this country, plague Guimaras and Misamis oil spills as the vessels carrying the bunker oil and oil debris are reportedly spoofed with spurious documents either of the vessel or its crew.

What may be a redeeming factor for the Coast Guard is their quick response in search, rescue and retrieval missions. But even then, finger pointing and blame passing between Marina and Coast Guard are quicker than emergency response. Marine inquiry proceedings are of little help. Proceedings drag on aimlessly as hearings are often postponed purportedly because lawyers have conflicting diary schedules.

Equally frustrating is how authorities circumvent their own laws. While laws specifically provide that accidents be heard and tried in the place where these happen, exceptions are made to transfer hearing venue with no plausible explanation. Hearings for the Superferry 12 that happened in Cebu and the oil spill that happened in Guimaras were both transferred to Manila. Can prosecution and indemnification be expected if lawyers and authorities who are supposed to uphold maritime laws and maritime safety, are now the very persons seeking exception from the law?

The disaster perhaps is not so much at sea. What is perhaps disastrously deadly is when present structures, systems and procedures of maritime and coast guard authorities are no longer effective. Until there is prosecution, until there is indemnification, until there is accident prevention, only then can Coast Guard and Marina claim they are relevant to the maritime industry and show they are sincere and faithful about their jobs.

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Anti-oil-spill order placed on hold

December 29, 2006

By VG Cabuag
Reporter, BusinessMirror
Dec. 29-30, 2006

THE Philippine government’s plan to implement a United Nations rule, which intends to reduce oil spills was put on hold after a recent-shake up at the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

According to a transport official, an order which mandates double hulls on oil tankers was supposed to endorsed during the Maritime Industry Authority’s (Marina) board meeting last September, weeks after a carrier spilled crude off Guimaras island, destroying the area’s mangroves. While the order’s approval was deferred for the next Marina board meeting, it has yet to be scheduled.

The same transport official disclosed that even Marina was puzzled by the apparent policy shift since the order was already approved in principle after Marina administrator Vicente T. Suazo Jr. held series of meetings with the country’s association of tanker owners, which did not oppose the move.

However, the owners had little choice since oil companies such as Petron Corp. and Pilipinas Shell are already requiring them to use double hull, double bottom vessels, making Marina’s circular just a formality.

Meanwhile, after Marina’s September board meet, former DOTC undersecretary Agustin Bengzon, who was in charge of maritime affairs, was replaced by Maria Elena Bautista.

Bengzon was transferred to head the Maritime Leasing Corp., a subsidiary of the state-led National Development Company (NDC), replacing Teodoro Villanueva.

For her part, Bautista said that the circular would be up for implementation by 2008.

“I just have some grammatical corrections on the draft memorandum circular,” she said.

The International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency, which looks after maritime safety, said that single-hull ships should be phased out between 2005 to 2010, depending on the date of the vessel’s construction.

Single-hull tankers 15 years or older require a condition assessment scheme, which stipulates stringent verification of ships’ structural conditions, among others.

In October 2003, ocean-going single hull tankers were banned from entering ports in European Union, after supertanker Prestige broke in half and capsized off the coast of Galicia, Spain.

Besides spilling half of the 77,000 tons of oil it carried, the October 2002 incident damaged the beaches of Iberian Peninsula and killed other marine life. That incident followed the sinking of the Erika, another tanker, off the coast of France in December 1999.

For its part, the United States also enacted a similar regulation when the Exxon Valdez sank off Bligh Reef in Alaska’s Prince William Sound spilling 10.8 million gallons of crude on March 1989.

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‘Strange’ claims hound IOPCF

December 29, 2006

By Maricar M. Calubiran
The News Today, Dec. 29, 2006

INSANITY, sleepless nights, hardship, death of a sow and piglets, loss of income of a sari-sari store, loss of beach sediments, hampered transport operation of tricycles, and rentals of land used as depository site of collected oil debris.

These are among the “strange” claims made by the oil spill-affected residents from Nueva Valencia, Guimaras, according to the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPCF), which were quickly denied for being inadmissible.

A source from the IOPCF said a claim form submitted to the Fund by a male claimant attested that he suffered “insanity, sleepless nights and hardship” when they were evacuated from their barangay. The same claim form was not attested and verified by the claimant’s barangay captain. As a rule, every claim should be verified by the barangay official.

One claimant also wants the Fund to pay him some P20,000 for his sow and 15 piglets. It was written in his claim form that the sow and the piglets died because of the oil spill. Again, the claimant had no documentary proof to back up his compensation claim. The claimant argued that the death of his pigs could be considered as “property damage.”

Another claimant said he lost his income from his sari-sari store for three years because of the oil spill. When checked, the sari-sari store does not cater to tourists who visit the island but to local residents. No records of purchases and store transactions were presented. Besides, the oil spill happened only last August 11, 2006.

Likewise, a claimant wants the Fund to pay for the “lost sand, gravel, rocks and other beach sediments” from the shores of Nueva Valencia when Petron ordered the clean-up operation in areas affected by the oil sludge. The claimant based his environmental damage claim on the number of sacks of oily debris collected by Petron.

A group of tricycle drivers also asked payment from the Fund for their “economic loss.” They claimed that they had few passengers particularly the foreigners because of the oil spill.

Some land owners is also asking the Fund to pay them rent after their property was used as depository of the collected oil debris. There are some properties on the island which was contracted by Petron to be used as depositories pending the arrival of the barges to transport the debris and all the wastes collected during the clean-up operation.

According to Joe Nichols, IOPCF Deputy Director/Technical Advisor, the claims of insanity, sleepless nights, hardships are considered psychological in nature and are not related to property damage. The claims are considered “inadmissible” under the organization’s policy. The Fund primarily pays for the property damage.

Nichols said they have also encountered such claims in Korea. The Fund won in the legal battle at the lower court. Then, the claimants brought the case to the Appellate Court after they lost. The Appellate Court favored the claimants in its ruling. However, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Appellate Court and ruled in the Fund’s favor. It was a landmark decision which was later used by the Fund in all compensation claims filed before their office.

On the case of the dead pigs, Nichols smiled at how the claimant was able to conceive such idea. “If the claimant can prove that the death of the pigs was caused by the oil spill and it falls under property damage, then the Fund is going to pay him,” said Nichols.

In the case of sari-sari store and tricycle drivers, Nichols said these are the types of livelihood which do not directly rely on tourists but on locals. “The Fund is very generous when it comes to compensation claims. However, the claim should be based on the contamination of the affected areas which resulted in the damage,” Nichols said.

Regarding the loss of sand, stone, rocks and other beach sediments, Nichols said the claimant does not own the shore. “The cleaning method employed by Petron was manual and the area has the ability to recover naturally. It is exaggerated and it’s one claim that the Fund will never pay,” he said.

On the claims of land rentals, the claimant should produce a contract on who made the transaction with them. “It is a reasonable claim on the part of the landowner. However, there is no reason for the landowners to file claims if Petron has already paid them the rent,” Nichols said.

He said those who filed such peculiar claims would be notified about the inadmissibility of their claims.

Further, Nichols disclosed that the Fund has discovered a number of false claims and double claims. Nichols declined to give details on who among the claimants, especially in the fishery and tourism sectors, made fraudulent claims. However, he assured that the Fund has enough measures to detect false and fraudulent claims.

Nevertheless, Nichols said most of the Guimarasnons who filed their claims are “honest.” The Fund was satisfied with the data they provided.

The Fund hopes to finish releasing the checks by next month. Currently, it is processing 60 claims per hour. “We want to pay all of them by the end of January,” said Nichols.

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Yep, IOPCF can’t pay for the psychological impact of the oil spill. This is why lawyers should now be brought in to file the necessary lawsuits against the perpetrators, Petron and Sunshine Maritime Development Corp., owner of the sunken Solar I vessel. A class suit is definitely called for.

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Guimaras leaders protest unfinished cleanup by Petron

December 29, 2006

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Inquirer, Dec. 29, 2006

ILOILO CITY—Church groups and residents of villages that suffered from the Petron oil spill have called for a boycott of Petron products until the oil firm completes the cleanup of areas contaminated by the oil sludge.

The groups, led by the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) of the St. Vincent Ferrer in Nueva Valencia town in Guimaras, said the cleanup was not complete as claimed by Petron and an inter-agency task force.

“It is painful for us residents of Nueva Valencia to hear such statements knowing that there are still areas which remain to be cleaned,” PPC president Antonio Arnil Chan told the Inquirer in a telephone interview.

Chan said at least 30 percent of the oil sludge that reached the shores of Nueva Valencia town after MT Solar I sank on Aug. 11 remains unclean. Nueva Valencia is the worst hit of the five towns of Guimaras.

Chan said that in the island-village of Guiwanon, 220 sacks of oil-contaminated debris that were collected by clean-up teams have not been removed. The debris was supposed to be transported by barges to the Holcim Cement Plant in Lugait town in Misamis Oriental.

But a boycott of Petron will be counter productive because this will not hasten the cleanup, said Carlos Tan, Petron’s spokesperson on the oil spill.

Tan, reached by phone yesterday, also said it would be “impossible to remove the oil 100 percent” even as he insisted that they have cleaned up 180 km of coastline in Guimaras.

He said Petron would continue the cleanup if the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will certify that there are areas that still need cleaning. He said teams have already collected 6,000 metric tons of debris.

Petron, the regional inter-agency task force Solar I Oil Spill and the National Disaster Coordinating Council earlier said that the physical cleanup, especially of the shoreline, has been completed.

Petron hired around 1,000 residents for P300 per day in the cleanup operations. But work stopped months ago because the oil firm said it was already completed.

The residents who were earlier evacuated for health and safety risks have also been allowed to return to their homes.

The efforts of agencies have been shifted to rehabilitation because of this assessment.

But Chan said the government and Petron should stop issuing “irresponsible statements.”

In a manifesto issued in Guimaras yesterday, the Church group, along with environmental groups and residents, demanded the total cleanup of the areas by Petron.

“Petron is running away from its obligations of totally cleaning Guimaras. A huge volume of oil is still buried in the shores of Barangays San Roque, Lucmayan, San Antonio, Tando, Lapaz, Cabalagnan and Guiwanon with patches of mangroves already dying in said areas,” the manifesto said.

The groups said that Petron should be held accountable for “their own negligence in ensuring seaworthy contracted carriers.”

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Equipment being readied to offload oil from Solar 1

December 29, 2006

By Ronilo Ladrido Pamonag
The Philippine Star 12/29/2006

ILOILO CITY — An Italian firm is fabricating equipment to be used in offloading the remaining bunker fuel in the sunken tanker Solar 1 starting February next year.

The company, Sonsub, has been contracted to offload the oil from Solar 1, which sank off the coast of Guimaras last Aug. 11, triggering the country’s worst oil spill.

The 10 cargo holds of the sunken tanker are believed still containing over a million liters of oil. Petron had chartered the vessel to transport two million liters of oil to Zamboanga.

“They (Sonsub) are still fabricating equipment they would be using to offload the oil, and are waiting for the amihan season to end,” Petron spokesman Carlos Tan told The STAR yesterday.

Seas are usually rough during the amihan season. Marine experts said offloading oil is a delicate operation requiring fair sea conditions.

“The offloading operation is expected to begin middle of February next year. It will last for about 20 days. So far, there has been no change in the timetable,” Tan said.

“Sonsub is also talking to local tugboat operators for their services. As far as I know, Sonsub will be bringing only one of its ships from Singapore for the offloading. Then they will tap the services of local tugboat operators,” he added.

The Protection and Indemnity Club is footing the bill for the offloading operation, Tan said. But if the actual expenses exceed $6 million, the International Oil Pollution Compensation would shoulder the excess, he said.

Meanwhile, Tan clarified that Petron never claimed that the oil spill-affected areas have been fully cleaned up, saying it is up to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to make such a declaration.

He, however, said they are willing to conduct another round of cleanup operations if the DENR is not satisfied.

“If the DENR says, ‘Petron, this area is not thoroughly clean,’ then we would be willing to go back and clean it all over again,” he said.

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Gee Caloy, you got scooped again by your own company’s press release huh? Try reading it on your Ligtas Guimaras site. Okay, since I’m feeling generous this Christmas, I’ll lend you a hand. Read your company’s mind-boggling cleanup claim right here.

https://sludge.files.wordpress.com/2006/12/petron-says-100-cleanup.pdf