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No more relief goods for Guimaras

December 8, 2006

By Jeehan V. Fernandez
The Guardian Iloilo,
Dec. 8, 2006

MAYOR Diosdado Gonzaga of Nueva Valencia, the municipality hit hardest by the Aug. 11 Solar 1 oil spill, yesterday said relief goods have stopped pouring for his constituents who are reeling from the brunt of the country’s worst environmental accident.

Gonzaga was in Iloilo City to attend the comprehensive mangrove rehabilitation planning workshop conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-6) at Sarabia Manor Hotel.

“I think I don’t need to over-emphasize the tragedy that befell our municipality. As far as the relief goods we are providing to our constituents are concerned, we already ran out of these things. And this is the problem we are facing whether we can sustain the needs of our people especially who cannot yet return to fishing,” Gonzaga said.

“We have also observed that there is an apparent decline of fish stock in our municipal water,” the mayor told reporters in a press conference with DENR secretary Angelo Reyes.

Gonzaga said he attended the DENR workshop “to listen, observe and possibly implement” what should be done to revive the mangroves damaged by bunker oil.

“We still need further clean up in our coastal areas especially the mangrove areas,” he said.

But Gonzaga said the living condition of the residents is starting to normalize.

“As of now we are gradually recovering from the disaster. We were thankful for the relief goods and other assistance which minimized the difficulty we faced,” said Gonzaga.

“Our fisher folks are returning to their usual fishing activities because the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has issued advisory that we can now fish in the municipal waters of Guimaras,” he added.

Gonzaga said clean-up activities initiated by Petron Corp. which provided temporary jobs to the affected residents were already terminated.

The most important questions the residents are asking, Gonzaga said, is: “What will be the action on the sunken vessel (M/T Solar 1) which is still underwater and whether there is a need for further clean up?”

Gonzaga also said there are people who are asking about the claims of fisherfolks with the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Fund.

The mayor met with an IOPC representative who gave him the master list of those who applied for claims with the corresponding amounts of compensation.

He said they have more than 4,500 applicants from Nueva Valencia alone which will be verified and returned to IOPC for documentation and issuance of checks.

“Hopefully, according to the IOPC representative, we can fast track the processing and validation and compensate the fisher folks before the year ends. This is another thing which will lighten the burden of our people,” said Gonzaga.

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MAY I appeal to your good hearts to please not forgot the Guimaras oil spill victims in your Christmas list. Even if they’ve been allowed to fish, there is less to catch and therefore less to feed their families. The measly claims they’ve been by the IOPC (not more than P30,000) will not last them a month. After all the scientists, international (so-called) experts, government agencies, and environmentalists have packed up and gone, there is still nothing clear about the rehabillitation of the spill-damaged areas and the future of the Guimarasnons. So in the meantime, let’s make sure they get fed and clothe.

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