Archive for January, 2007

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Visayan Sea on brink of ‘ecosystem collapse’

January 28, 2007

The Philippine Star 01/28/2007

A volunteer team of divers recently completed the first survey of the coral reefs and marine resources in the Visayan Sea. Its findings: an ecosystem on the verge of “total collapse.”

“Not a single patch of coral reef of a mere 1,000 square meters remains intact and damage to the Visayan coral reefs is up to more than 90 percent,” the underwater team of the Visayan Sea Squadron said in a statement.

“The geographic heart of the fabled Visayan Marine Triangle trembles on the brink of ecosystem collapse,” it added.

In almost all 100 sites in the Visayan Marine Triangle, the group noted that groupers (lapu-lapu) and parrotfish (molmol) — indicator species of the health of coral reefs — “have all been practically wiped out.”

The Visayan Sea, which contains some of the richest biodiversities in the world, is bound by the provinces of Masbate, Leyte, Cebu, Iloilo and Negros.

Using the internationally accepted “reef check” method, the 2006 Visayan Sea expedition, which was supported by the tourism department, surveyed more than 100 sites in the Visayan Marine Triangle. The data collected by this expedition will serve as a baseline with which to “grade” the local and national governments legally mandated to protect the marine resources.

The volunteer-divers in the 2006 expedition were young marine biology graduates from the University of San Carlos in Cebu.

As a result of the study, the Law of Nature Foundation, the mother organization of the Visayan Sea Squadron, will conduct an environmental compliance audit in selected areas during the summer.

The audit will be done in cooperation with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Philippine Bar Association as well as the Office of the Ombudsman, the Commission on Audit and other civil society experts.

The project will assess the level of compliance by the local governments concerned with the provisions of the law, the Visayan Sea Squadron said.

“Particularly, they will assess the performance of the local government unit on marine resources protection and on the compliance with the solid waste management law,” it said.

“It is time to use the power of the law to hold accountable the very people to whom we have given powerful positions and whose salaries we pay,” said environmental lawyer Tony Oposa, team leader of the 2006 expedition.

“If they have not performed up to their legal mandates, it is but right that their constituents and the people who elected them into their positions are properly informed, especially during election season,” added Oposa.

The Visayan Sea Squadron is composed of volunteers from different sectors of society whose mission is to conserve, protect, and restore the Visayan Sea.

From April to May, the group, in partnership with the tourism department and the Philippine Commission for Sports Scuba Diving, will document the wealth of the Visayan Sea in a photography project.

“This novel strategy for eco-tourism seeks the help of local and foreign visitors — mostly scuba divers, photographers and writers — to help establish a network of marine protected areas in the Visayan Sea,” it said.

Interested persons may call Bonar Laureto at 809-6122 Gary C. 917-321-3836, or via email at teamleader@thelawofnature.org, or visit their website http://www.thelawofnature.org.

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UPV students on a mission

January 28, 2007

From Andie F. Febrada (eco_ex07@yahoo.com.ph)

Hello and good day. upon reading your blog, i got a lot of information about the present situation of guimaras and its affected people. I am a senior Marketing student from UPV and being Iskolars ng Bayan, we also want to help the affected areas . we have organized this Eco-Expedition 2007 that aims to help oil spill affected people through making a marketing plan of the the alternative livelihood that has been implemented. The presentation and initial implementation of such plan will be presented during our culminating activities on March 2-3, 2007. in line with this, as a students we lack fund that would help us realize our objective. We would like to ask your support or advice to look for funding source for us to push through this plan. thank you very much and hope we could work hand in hand to achieve our goal: To help guimaras and its people and to recover and gain what have been lost from them.

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Dear Andie:

Thank you for coming up with your project. I decided to post your email as a blog entry in the hope that there are still good kind souls out there who will be willing to help fund your project.

I would advice you, however, to whip out your pen and paper (or computer and printer) and start writing! Write to your congressmen, to your senators, to your governors, the different companies with foundations (ABS-CBN Foundation, Ayala Foundation, Philippine Business for Social Progress, Foundation for Economic Freedom, and yes, why not Petron Foundation?, etc.) who may be able to help you. Also try Tony Meloto at the Gawad Kalinga which I believe is supporting livelihood projects, and marketing of these products made by the oil spill victims is just what they need.

Just don’t leave it there. After sending your emails or letters, follow these up with phone calls. Don’t give up even if these people give you a runaround and I’m pretty sure you will experience it. As long as you have a good project proposal, proper manners, and the vision to achieve your goal, I am sure someone or some entity will find it worthy enough to finance.

Try to appeal to your local newspapers also to give you some coverage so you can spread the word out to the people in your area who may be willing to lend you a hand.

Good luck and please keep me posted on any developments with regard to your project.

Mabuhay kayo!

Kind regards,

The site manager

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No oil spill compensation for under-aged victims

January 27, 2007

By Florence F. Hibionada
The News Today, Jan. 26, 2007

AFTER hundreds of thousands in checks released to oil spill victims in the province of Guimaras, a new complaint has been raised following reports that under-aged claimants have been barred from any compensation.

Nueva Valencia Mayor Diosdado Gonzaga disclosed that said applications of a number of claimants, mostly minors, were refused by the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund.

As such, Mayor Gonzaga wrote to Nueva Valencia barangay captains to keep watch of the ongoing check distribution in an effort to resolve and avert similar problems.

Reached by Bombo Radyo Iloilo, Gonzaga decried the alleged denial of claims to Guimaras locals below 18 years old though it was not clear how many of such claims were disallowed in the compensation process.

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Contaminated sea water affects salt production in Guimaras

January 26, 2007

HUNDREDS of salt makers in San Lorenzo and Sibunag towns are apprehensive on whether to pursue their regular season of salt production or not.

The salt makers are still waiting for an official declaration from Task Force Solar Oil Spill (TF-SOS) or the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) if sea water in Guimaras are now safe for salt making.

Salt-making season usually starts in February or March to May every year when the dry season is at its peak.

But salt producers in the island are now apprehensive that the Solar 1/Petron oil spill has massively affected their sea water quality that they could not anymore produce the same quality salt they are making for several years now.

The provincial government of Guimaras advised salt producers to defer their usual mass production until the provincial government received official result of water quality tests conducted by composite teams from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources0 (DENR), Department of Health (DOH), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and Department of Social Welfare and Development, among government agencies.

Guimaras Public Information Officer Dienfield Gange said they received recommendation from DENR for salt makers to produce salt samples in various sites in both towns to test the result.

“For testing, we advise salt makers to produce small amount of salt taken from various sites in San Lorenzo and Sibunag and some parts of Buenavista to see to it if it is now safe to produce in large scale,” Gange said.

Meanwhile, the town of Sibunag also suffered the most especially in their seaweed industry. The town is recipient of a P1 million financial assistance from government and non-government organizations to develop or improve the town’s seaweeds industry.

The provincial government’s 30-year development plan starting 2005 until 2035 was interrupted by the oil spill incident.

One of the major features of the development plan is improving seaweed production in Sibunag and Nueva Valencia and the salt making industry of San Lorenzo. (PNA via Balita.org, Jan. 25, 2007)

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DOTC okays rules on double-hulled ships

January 24, 2007

By VG Cabuag
Reporter, BusinessMirror
Jan. 24, 2007

UNDER amended regulations, tankers from 5,000 deadweight tons (dwt) up carrying crude oil, fuel oil, heavy diesel oil or lubricating oil, or any type of lubricant or chemical will have to be double-hulled as further assurance against accidental spills that can destroy marine and coastal environments. But all oil tankers “including tankers below 600 dwt shall be double hulled by April 2008.”

The new rules were issued by the Department of Transportation and Communications Tuesday, and will take effect next April. They will be administered and implemented by the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).

The rules are in Marina Circular 2007-01, “Rules to Implement Double Hull Requirement Under Marpol 73/78, Annex 1, as Amended, on Oil Tankers Operating in Philippine Domestic Waters.”

Double-hull ships were defined by the circular as those vessels “constructed with wing tanks or spaces that extend for the full depth of the ship’s side and arranged such that the cargo tanks are located inboard of the moulded line of the side shell plating and has a double bottom tank.”

Double bottom, on the other hand, is the general term for all watertight spaces contained between the outside bottom plating, the tank top, and the margin plates.

Sanctions and penalties for violators include immediate suspension of safety certificates of tankers for 60 days, delisting from the Philippine registry, revocation of the vessel’s authority to operate, and a penalty of P50,000 for each day of operation.

The circular was supposed to have been approved by the Marina board, headed by the DOTC secretary, weeks after the MT Solar 1 sank off Guimaras Island in August and spilled some 2 million liters of oil. But the shake-up in high-level DOTC positions delayed its promulgation.

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Petron wants more time to comply with biofuels law

January 22, 2007

PETRON Corp., a major oil refiner, will seek from the government a reasonable transition period for the implementation of the Biofuels Act of 2006, its top official said Friday night.

petron-saudi-guy.jpg
Petron President and Chief Executive Officer Khalid D. Al-Faddagh said the oil firm, which is partly owned by the government-run Philippine National Oil Co., will work with government in formulating the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the recently approved law, which mandates the blending of biodiesel and bioethanol into diesel and gasoline, respectively.

He assured that the oil firm will comply with the law but wants to be given enough time to meet all the requirements. He said Petron may ask for a one-year transition period.

On the use ethanol, for instance, Mr. Al-Faddagh said there are technical issues with respect to the blending and the percentage.

“I think that time is needed for getting the system ready. It’s just the logistical side of it, which we’re working on. There are still uncertainties that have to be addressed such as if there is enough supply for the whole Philippines,” he told reporters.

He also said that the oil firm needs time to ensure that the blending of coco-methyl ester (CME) or biodiesel into diesel would have no effects on vehicle engines.

“Liabilities on damages that will come out from using CME have been one of the points we have initially raised. We want the rules of engagement to be clear. This is a law and we will comply with it but it has to make clear issues on liabilities,” he said.

Mr. Al-Faddagh said Petron is doing a lot of research and testing to ensure that the use of CME would not be harmful to motorists.

“So we’re working on it. And all we’ve been asking from the beginning is a transition period, and maybe the IRR can clarify this,” he said.

Aside from the technical and safety issues, Mr. Al-Faddagh said Petron is also looking into whether there is enough supply of CME as this would affect costs.

“We have a bigger issue on the steady supply of CME [including] the price of it and how it will be priced. I’m talking about the whole Philippines. We also have to look into the logistic system that has to take care of this blend, so we still have to figure it out,” he said.

Petron is allotting P269 million this year for its ethanol program which will be used to construct new pipes and holding tanks to store the alternative fuel. It has yet to finalize the budget for the use of CME or biodiesel.

Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla, for his part, assured that the National Biofuels Board would consult all stake-holders in formulating the law’s implementing rules.

The Biofuels Act initially mandates a minimum of 1% biodiesel blend within three months after the law takes effect and at least 5% bioethanol blend within two years.

The law also mandates implementation of at least 2% biodiesel blend within two years upon effectivity and 10% bioethanol fuel within four years.

Estimates from the energy department show that the use of 1% biodiesel and 5% bioethanol this year will result to foreign exchange savings for the country of about $167 million annually.

In 2010, the use of 10% bioethanol and 2% biodiesel will result in annual foreign exchange savings of about $389 million. — Iris Cecilia C. Gonzales, BusinessWorld, Jan. 22, 2007

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Is anyone surprised?

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P100M paid to Guimaras oil-spill victims

January 17, 2007

ILOILO City – The International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPCF), the inter-governmental world organization in charge of compensating oil spill victims, has defrayed more than P100 million for some 11,000 oil spill claimants in the island province of Guimaras.

The beneficiaries are mostly fisherfolk who temporarily lost their livelihood when tanker M/T Solar I of Sunshine Maritime Company sank off Nueva Valencia, Guimaras on August 11, 2006, spilling some of its two million liters of Petron bunker oil.

Captain Patrick Joseph, claims manager of the London-based IOPCF, yesterday showed up on the set of the radio-cable TV talk show Reklamo Publiko to deny reports that IOPCF was not paying fair compensations.

A lawyer and retired judge, David Alfeche, representing Sapalo Velez Bundang & Bulilan Law Offices, had been discouraging some beneficiaries from claiming their allegedly insufficient checks and offering their services to them for bigger claims at 12 percent commission on any recovery.

The checks that have been handed out to fisher folk range from P5,000 to P30,000.
Of the 45 claims by resort owners, 33 have been processed.

“Unlike private insurance companies,” Joseph said, “IOPCF does not minimize claims. We pay for economic losses, clean-up, preventive measures, property damage and environmental damage. But saying that someone’s loss is P50,000 and proving that loss are two different things.”

“We are dealing with 11,000 fisher folk. A lot of them were not keeping records. In that case, we waived the requirement for proof of claim. We went into the field and investigated how much they make in a week and multiply that by 12 weeks.”

Joseph denied the story that IOPCF was requiring check claimants to sign a quitclaim that would prohibit them from asking for more compensation. It’s just a document, he added, confirming receipt of compensation for the August 11 incident. They have the right to make another claim for another incident. It also states that checks not cashed within 30 days from date of issue would turn stale or non-negotiable.

Only 120 claimants have not yet received their check.

“Think again,” Joseph reminded those who had refused to receive their checks. “Do not listen to the wrong advice.”

Guimaras Provincial Administrator and lawyer Plaridel Nava, who was in the show with Joseph and two Petron executives, denied having played a role in the preparation of compensations and claim documents. His only role was to notarize the settlement agreement between IOPC and claimants. It was Captain Joseph who had chosen him for the job. He did not reveal his notary fee. (Panay News press release, Jan. 17, 2007)