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Nueva Valencia town leads call for justice, boycott of Petron products

December 27, 2006

By Erly C. Garcia and Florence F. Hibionada
The News Today, Dec. 27, 2006

JUST as Petron Corp. declared the oil-spill affected areas in Guimaras already 100-percent clean, a people’s manifesto calling for justice for oil spill-affected fisherfolk and a boycott of the oil firm’s products will be launched anew on Thursday, December 28.

The move will be spearheaded by the Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) of the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer in Nueva Valencia, the town considered as hardest hit by the oil spill.

Records show that the town of Nueva Valencia has the most number of barangays, at 11, affected by the oil spill, rendering 12,600 persons jobless.

In a press statement, Tony Chan, president of PPC, said the people’s manifesto will be launched at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday at the Church Convent.

An advance copy of the people’s manifesto furnished The News Today debunked Petron’s earlier claim that Guimaras is already clean of the oil sludge.

It said, “Almost five months after the August 11, 2006 Petron/MT Solar 1 Oil Spill, bunker oil still pollutes our shores and mangrove areas, devastates our sources of livelihood, and exposes us to the long-term effects of carcinogenic and other highly toxic compounds.”

The people’s manifesto claimed that 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.”

“We cannot tolerate the lies of Petron: that our shores is now 100% clean, that they are not accountable of their own negligence in ensuring seaworthy contracted carriers, that the bunker fuel is not volatile and toxic; that the spraying of dispersants is not harmful; and that there is no danger of implosion of the sunken oil tanker. Petron’s denial of responsibility and portraying Good Samaritan in this tragedy is gross deception and condemnable,” the manifesto added.

The manifesto also declared a boycott of all Petron products and called on “our fellow citizens to join us in this worthy cause until (justice is served)!”

The manifesto also made the following demands: (1) That government should execute punitive actions and enforce regulations and policies to compel liability of all those responsible for the tragedy; (2) That PETRON should be fully accountable and must make a thorough clean up of the oil sludge in a manner acceptable not only to the ‘world of science’ but most importantly to the affected people of Guimaras and nearby provinces; (3) That IOPC Fund must provide just compensation to the victims and immediately release the funds in the Province of Guimaras; and (4) That the remaining bunker fuel in the MT Solar 1 must be retrieved immediately.

Nueva Valencia residents affected by the oil spill have not yet received their compensation from the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPCF).

IOPCF started releasing checks to fisherfolk-claimants from San Lorenzo, Jordan and Sibunag last week. Those in Nueva Valencia, however, have yet to receive their compensation due to the delayed submission of the claimants’ papers.

The distribution of oil-spill compensation checks resumed today and will continue tomorrow despite an unresolved squabble among top Guimaras politicians. With 11,500 claimants on its list, the IOPCF continued distributing the checks in Iloilo.

Joe Nichols, IOPCF Deputy Director said the checks are ready for release and that the organizing is bent on delivering its promised compensation to the claimants.

Nichols made the statement over Bombo Radyo’s Zona Libre as he called on the claimants to be at the Iloilo Provincial Capitol to receive their checks.

Alongside the controversy ignited by the earlier check distribution that pitted two Guimaras polticians against each other, the IOPCF was also hounded by reported fraudulent claims.

But Nichols said no fraudulent claims were discovered even as he stressed that only legitimate claims will be paid and duly compensated by the organization. As far as the IOPC is concerned, he added, those claimants appearing on the verified list will get their respective checks.

Petron Corp. chartered the oil tanker MT Solar I, owned by Sunshine Maritime Development Corp., which was carrying 2 million liters of bunker oil and sank off Guimaras waters last August 11, 2006.

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