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CBCP backs boycott call against oil firm

January 10, 2007

By DAVID ISRAEL SINAY
Panay News, Jan. 10, 2006

ILOILO City – The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) supports the call of the residents in Nueva Valencia, Guimaras to boycott the products of Petron Corp. whose chartered oil tanker sank in August last year, causing an oil spill.

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Archbishop Lagdameo (Photo from
Dyaryo Pilipino.)

In an endorsement letter dated January 2*, CBCP President and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo sympathized with the residents who are demanding for a just restitution from Petron.

The Jaro Archdiocesan Social Action Center (JASAC) wants to make the boycott call a nationwide campaign.

JASAC Director Monsignor Meliton Oso said the boycott manifesto had been faxed to all the dioceses in Western Visayas and to the national office of the social action center to be circulated in other dioceses and 97 prelatures in the country.

In the manifesto, the residents said the oil spill “tragically damaged” barangays and their livelihood.

The Parish Pastoral Council of Nueva Valencia, led by parish priest Antonio Chan initiated the manifesto calling to boycott Petron products on December 28, 2006.

During the manifesto’s launching, residents of San Lorenzo and Sibunag towns also came to Nueva Valencia to show their solidarity.

The municipality of Nueva Valencia was worst hit by the oil spill but the coastal barangays of San Lorenzo and Sibunag towns were also tarnished by the bunker fuel oil that leaked from the sunken M/T Solar 1.

Petron chartered the tanker to transport its 2.1 million liters of bunker fuel oil to Zamboanga. Unfortunately on August 11, 2006 it sank off the rough seas of the Iloilo-Guimaras Strait.

Chan said their boycott call “will be an ongoing campaign.”

JASAC’s Oso said “all priests were furnished a copy of the manifesto. We hope for the community to support this.”

“We encourage (parishioners) to stop patronizing (Petron products), encourage friends to support (the initiative) and to post streamers rejecting Petron products,” Oso said further.

DEMAND

Nueva Valencia residents want the government to execute punitive actions and enforce regulations and policies against those responsible for the tragedy; that Petron be held fully accountable and must make a thorough cleanup 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; that the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund must provide just compensation to the victims and immediately release the funds in the province of Guimaras; and that the remaining bunker fuel in the M/T Solar 1 must be retrieved immediately.

“(The) bunker oil still pollutes our shores and mangrove areas, devastates our sources of livelihood, and exposes us to long-term effects of carcinogenic and other highly toxic compounds,” the manifesto read.

The residents also belied the claims of the country’s largest oil refiner that the oil-smeared shores of Guimaras are “now 100-percent clean.”

“We cannot tolerate the lies of Petron… that they are not accountable for 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,” the manifesto further read.

PETRON’S SIDE

“We have spearheaded the cleanup in cooperation with concerned agencies and organizations,” countered Rafael Ledesma, Petron Public Affairs Officer.

But he admitted that “we have not included mangroves and rocky shores. (The cleanup) involves only the shores. Experts told us not to touch the mangroves as doing so may cause more damage to the environment.”

Ledesma said they will continue to monitor the area despite having finished cleanup already.

Petron has now shifted its focus on the rehabilitation and the setting up of alternative livelihood for the residents, he revealed.

“We committed to establish mangrove nurseries and marine aquaculture for the residents,” Ledesma added.

Ledesma said they are “not bothered” by the threat to boycott their products.

“In spite of the campaign, we will doing everything to restore Guimaras (to its original state),” he said.

WHERE’S THE REHAB PLAN?

The residents said the scientific conference “funded” by Petron in November last year was supposed to draw long-term rehabilitation and recovery plans “but fell short in addressing the prime concerns of the people: resources for alternative livelihood, means of monitoring and supporting persons heavily exposed to toxic fumes, methods and approaches for thorough and total cleanup, and immediate retrieval of the remaining bunker oil in the M/T Solar 1.”

They added, “deterrent measures and punitive actions against the culprits were not discussed in the conference and worse, the residents of the affected municipalities, with Nueva Valencia as the hardest hit, were not given a chance to participate.”

Ledesma, however, clarified that local government units had their representatives during the scientific conference.

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We will post the CBCP endorsement letter as soon as it has been made available to us.

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