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Oil spill areas need more cleaning — DENR

January 5, 2007

By Ronilo L. Pamonag
The News Today, Jan. 7, 2007

Areas in Guimaras province affected by the oil spill need to be cleaned all over again, the government said Wednesday.

Regional Director Julian Amador of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) identified four areas in Guimaras and two in Iloilo that Petron Corporation needs to “revisit.”

“We have not yet issued any clean bill of health for the areas affected by the oil spill,” Amador said.

“Generally the environmental quality of Guimaras has already recovered except in terms of oil and grease content of the coastal water in some areas, particularly in the hardest hit areas of the municipality of Nueva Valencia and some of its islands, and the Municipality of Sibunag,” the DENR said in a statement.

“Six sites were recommended for immediate physical clean up or only removal of floating debris to hasten the natural washings through exchange of tidal waters. The debris blocks the tidal water exchange,” Amador said.

Amador noted that oil and grease volumes went down to around 10-20 milligrams per liter, down from the highest level of 250 mg/l in the early days of the oil spill in August.

Amador has already requested Petron to assist in the cleanup by providing the resources.

“We have already brought this matter to the attention of Petron,” said Task Force Solar I Oil Spill chair Rafael Coscolluela.

The oil refiner, through its Petron Foundation, organized coastal cleanup operations, which they formally terminated October last year.

But with the recommendation of the DENR, Petron gave their commitment that they will conduct another round of cleanup operations.

“We will do whatever it needs to be done based on what the Task Force SOS instructs. We will abide by the instruction of the Task Force,” said Malou Erni of the Petron Foundation.

About 180 kilometers of coastline were affected by the oil spill when tanker Solar 1 sunk off the coast of Guimaras last August. It was carrying two million liters of Petron bunker fuel for delivery to Zamboanga when it sunk under heavy seas.

Sonsub, the Italian firm contracted to offload the remaining bunker fuel, is currently fabricating equipment to be used for the operations, which is expected to start next month.

IOPCF claims

In a related development, Petron said the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPCF) has already settled P42 million worth of claims arising from the oil spill. These were claims filed by marginal fishers in Guimaras, particularly in the towns of San Lorenzo, Jordan and Sibunag.

Claims of fisherfolk from Nueva Valencia, considered the hardest hit, will be paid starting next week.

According to Coscolluela, 17,000 claims were filed with the IOPC. But only about 13,000 were approved. Majority of these claimants were fisherfolk.

Approved claims filed by the seaweed and fishpond operators, and those of resort owners will be paid after those of the fisherfolk have been settled.

Payment of approved claims is expected to last until March this year.

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