ABS-CBN News’ 2006 Year in Review

December 30, 2006

Oil spill in Guimaras

WEARING rubber gloves and using dishwashing liquid and a scouring pad, Remmy Cayanan was busy scrubbing rocks on the beach of Nueva Valencia town in Guimaras. With a bitter smile, she laments the loss of their clean sea “Eto wala na ang malinis na dagat namin (Our unpolluted waters are gone).”

For P500 a day, Remmy was among those hired by Petron Corporation to help in cleaning up the black greasy mess on the coastline of the town for two weeks.

On August 11, the M/T Solar 1 owned by Sunshine Maritime Corporation and carrying some 200,000 liters of bunker fuel oil of Petron, sank off the coast of Guimaras. Thousands of liters of bunker fuel oil found its way on the pristine beaches of the island province, also famous for its sweet and succulent golden yellow mangoes.

In a letter to Petron president Khalid Al-Faddagh, the provincial government of Guimaras declared these statistics: 239 kilometers of coastlines affected; 58 hectares of seaweed plantations damaged; 105 hectares of mangrove areas hit; 1,180 fisherfolks who temporarily lost their jobs; and numerous cases of respiratory illnesses and stomach and skin disorders reported. Accordingly, this is the worst oil spill in the country.

Days after local and international uproar, Petron and Sunshine Maritime have owned up to the responsibility for the oil spill. But the bulk of the task of rehabilitating Guimaras now lies on the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund, an international body whose mission is partly to provide financial assistance to residents affected by massive oil spills.

Despite claims made by Petron that the physical cleanup of the affected coastlines is 100-percent complete, traces of oil can still be found on the beaches of Guimaras. Complete rehabilitation is another thing and it may take several years.

It is thus painfully difficult for Remmy to erase from her memories the black smudge on the white-sand beaches of her province, especially after toiling under the hot sun just to clean up the mess left by the sunken ship. But she is fervently hoping that in due time, fish will thrive once more in their waters, vulnerable mangroves will soon recover and their simple and quiet lives in Guimaras will be back.

(For the rest of the yearender, click ABS-CBN News, Dec. 30, 2006.)

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