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Solar One owner claims bankruptcy

December 20, 2006

The Philippine Star 12/20/2006

ILOILO CITY–Sunshine Maritime Development Corp., the owner of the sunken tanker M/T Solar One, has been rendered “virtually bankrupt” by the oil spill in Guimaras. As it handed what it says is the “last salary” of the officers and crew of Solar One, SMDC president Clemente Cancio said in a letter dated Dec. 19, “That is why with it is with deep regret and with a heavy heart that this salary for the 15th of December 2006 shall be your last. You all know that the company is virtually bankrupt and non-operational since the sinking incident but the management has done its best to keep you in its payroll for five months. Presently, the company has run out of funds for your salary and other basic operational expenses.” A call was made to the office of the SMDC but it was unanswered.

Petron Corp. chartered Solar One to transport two million litters of bunker fuel to Zamboanga. The ship sank in heavy seas last Aug. 11 off the coast of Guimaras, triggering the country’s worst oil spill. Cleanup and rehabilitation are being conducted at present.

The crew of the sunken tanker are at a quandary over the letter. “We don’t know if we are being terminated or what,” crew member Reynaldo Torio said during a phone interview yesterday. He pointed out that if they’re being terminated, the company should pay them separation pay, but none was paid them except for their salary.

“After the incident, SMDC has yet to pay unpaid wages for Sept. 15 and Nov. 30. Cancio promised in his letter that the unpaid wages once the company receives the proceeds of the hull and machinery insurance from Stronghold Insurance would be paid.

“But we don’t think we’d ever get paid because the company has not been paying its premium,” crew member Reynaldo Torio said, quoting what was told them by SMDC operations officer Ernest Louie Noel. (Ronilo Pamonag)

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