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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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