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4 MONTHS AFTER OIL SPILL Still no funds for Guimaras rehabilitation, say officials

December 15, 2006

By Thea Alberto
INQ7.net, Dec. 14, 2006

GUIMARAS – Four months after the MT Solar I, laden with two million liters of bunker fuel, sank in waters some 10 miles from here, the national government has yet to release funds to rehabilitate areas of the province devastated by the resulting oil spill.

Governor JC Rahman Nava told INQ7.net that the P1.2-billion budget for restoration work promised by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ” was already approved in the Senate last October but we still have to receive it.”

During a visit here following the oil spill, Arroyo declared a national calamity and promised support for restoration efforts.

Evan Arias, Guimaras officer for plans and programs, said the lack of funds has prevented the province from recovering from what many quarters have described as the “worst oil spill” in the country.

The spill affected nearly 20 barangays (villages) in the towns of Nueva Valencia and Sibunag and forced the evacuation of more than a thousand residents, Guimaras provincial government records showed.

Arias also noted that the Solar I is still under water and will most likely continue leaking oil.

Despite the arrival of local and international experts here, there are still no concrete plans about what to do with the sunken tanker, although officials say siphoning the remaining fuel remains the best option.

Arias lamented that the delay in rehabilitation efforts has deprived Guimaras residents, whose livelihood is mainly fishing, is a living but also continues the province’s ecosystem.

“The bunker oil has seeped almost 30 centimeters into the sea sediment,” said Arias, noting that ” the government can handle a landslide but not [an] oil spill.”

Although the University of the Philippines- Visayas has been tasked to conduct a research on the spill, the school cannot immediately provide research conclusions because a lot of studies have still to be done, Arias said.

– Also read Mla Standard Today, Dec. 15, 2006

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