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P120.3M paid so far to Guimaras oil spill victims

February 12, 2007

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Inquirer, Feb. 12, 2007

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – The International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Fund had paid a total of P120.3 million to victims of the August 2006 Solar I oil spill in Guimaras.

IOPC Deputy Director Joe Nichols said in an email that the IOPC approved and paid the claims of 11,361 residents from the towns of Jordan, Sibunag, Nueva Valencia, Buenavista and San Lorenzo in Guimaras.

But around 300 residents did not claim payments, Nichols said.

The IOPC will soon process the claims of 3,000 residents engaged in fishing from the towns of Oton, Concepcion and Ajuy in Iloilo. It will also process around 77 claims by seaweed farmers and 90 fishpond operators from Guimaras Island.

Nichols said the IOPC, a London-based intergovernmental agency that indemnifies losses resulting from oil spills, will settle the claims of the second batch of victims from Guimaras after paying the claimants from Iloilo.

The oil spill affected 5,437 families or 26,740 individuals after the M/T Solar 1 sank in stormy seas off Guimaras on August 11 and dumped more than 2.1 million liters of bunker fuel oil it was transporting for Petron Corp. from Bataan to Zamboanga.

The Philippine Coast Guard believed that around 300,000 liters spilled into the sea, contaminating coastal areas with oil sludge.

Around 13,000, residents mostly engaged in fishing, have filed claims for damages after the spill contaminated fishing grounds and devastated the island’s rich marine life and tourism sites.

The IOPC has paid the claimants engaged in fishing with amounts ranging from P3,000 to P32,000. It has also released initial payments to around 34 operators of resorts and other tourism sites from P1,000 to P250,000.

Church groups led by Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, along with environmental groups and non-government organizations, have called for higher compensation for the victims, claiming that the money being paid by the IOPC are not enough to cover the losses of the residents.

But the IOPC officials said they came up with compensation costing based on the IOPC field surveys and the types of fishing the claimants were engaged in.

Nichols said the removal of the remaining oil from the wreck would start around March 14. He said they were expecting the operation to last for 10 to 20 days, depending on how much oil remained onboard.

The insurers of the sunken tanker and the IOPC have contracted the salvage firm Sonsub to remove the oil from wreck 640 meters on the sea floor. The operation is estimated to cost between US$6 million to US$12 million, depending on volume of oil left in the tanker.

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