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IOPC lauds pollution compensation bill

February 21, 2007

ILOILO CITY – The International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund has welcomed the passing of Senate Bill No. 2600 or the “Oil Pollution Compensation Act.”

The bill provides for tougher measures on pollution damage and ensures adequate compensation for victims of oil spills consistent with international conventions and practices.

“It is good that the (Philippine) government is treating this as a matter of urgency,” IOPC Director Willem Oosterveen said in an interview.

The IOPC is a London-based intergovernmental agency that indemnifies losses resulting from oil spills through a fund coming from contributions of oil companies

Oosterveen said the passing of a law dealing on oil pollution and compensation would strengthen the enforcement of provisions of the international conventions, which the Philippines have signed.

The Philippines is among the 99 states that have signed the 1992 Civil Liability Convention and the 1992 Fund Convention which both provide for compensation for oil pollution damage resulting from spills of persistent oil from tankers.

The Senate approved the bill on third and final reading during its special session on Monday. The approved bill consolidates six bills in the Senate and its counterpart bill in the lower house, House Bill No. 4363.

Authored by Sen. Pia Cayetano, chair of the Senate committee on environment, the proposed law would provide stiff penalties for ship owners involved in oil pollution.

The bill provides that liability shall be imposed on the owners of ships involved in oil pollution and for a fund to cover incidents causing oil pollution damage shall be constituted by owners of ships registered in the Philippines.

It also provides for the creation of an Oil Pollution Management Fund to be administered by the Philippine Coast Guard and requires that any person who has received more than 150,000 tons of contributing oil in a calendar year through carriage by sea shall report this and pay contributions to the IOPC Fund.

All owners of ships whether registered in the Philippines or not, shall also be required annually to maintain insurance or financial security for oil pollution damage.

Cayetano said in a statement that the approved bill “lays down tougher rules to make polluters pay – and make them pay heavily – so that they will be more conscious of the need to protect the environment.”

She noted that the two worst oil spills in the country happened in the span of eight months in December 2005 and August 2005.

Around 300,000 liters of bunker oil were spilled off Semirara in Antique province in December 2005 when a power barge of the National Power Corp. ran aground due to bad weather. The MT Solar I sank southwest of the island-province of Guimaras on August 11 carrying 2 million liters of bunker fuel.

The oil spills devastated marine resources and affected thousands of residents dependent on marine life for their livelihood.

Cayetano said the oil spill in Guimaras “dramatized the lack of a proper response strategy to oil spills and the failure to make oil companies, ship owners and operators responsible and liable for their misdeeds.”

The Philippine Coast Guard has been pushing for the creation of an oil spill fund that would provide them with operational funds for the cleanup operations and without waiting or depending on the release of insurance money. (Nestor P. Burgos, Visayan Daily Star, Feb. 21, 2007)

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