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)


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