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Petron: Work to remove oil on Solar 1 going smoothly

March 16, 2007

NUEVA VALENCIA, Guimaras – The operation to remove the remaining oil from the wreck of Solar I is going smoothly, Petron President Khalid Al-Faddagh said yesterday.

Al-Faddagh said pieces of equipment of the salvage firm Sonsub have been deployed over the site of the wreckage and are undergoing testing of its systems.

“They will be ready to go very soon to start the retrieval,” Al-Faddagh told reporters in Barangay Tando here where a groundbreaking ceremony for a school building donated by the oil firm was held. He said they are closely monitoring the operation that started on March 11 and is expected to last from 20 days to around a month costing around $6 million.

“We are hopeful that the whole operation will go on smoothly without any incident,” Al-Faddagh said.

Remote Operated Vehicles have been deployed over the wreck and are preparing the installation of safety valves before holes will be drilled over the sunken tanker’s cargo tanks, according to a report prepared by Jon Walker, a representative of the London Offshore Consultants. The holes will be drilled to allow sea water to come in and where the oil can be released from the tanks of Solar I.

Al-Faddagh said any recovered oil will be handled safely to ensure that there will be no oil spills. He said the final disposal of the tanker’s cargo will depend on the condition of the oil.

Solar I was carrying 2.1 million liters of oil when it sank on Aug. 11 last year amid stormy weather. An estimated 300,000 liters of oil have been spilled in the waters that triggered the worst oil spill in the country’s history. Petron chairman and chief executive officer Nicasio Alcantara said the retrieval operation will finally end all speculation on whether there is still oil in the vessel.

Nueva Valencia Mayor Diosdado Gonzaga said the people are thankful that the operations have begun.

“Now we can focus on our rehabilitation efforts and programs,” Gonzaga said in an interview.

Petron and Guimaras officials led the groundbreaking rites for a four-classroom Petron school building in Barangay Tando, one of the villages worst hit by the oil spill.

In Bacolod City, Commodore Arturo Olavario, Philippine Coast Guard Marine Environmental Protection chief, yesterday said the PCG is fielding four vessels and one airplane to contain any oil leak during the retrieval operations.

However, he said he is confident that the Allied Shield will be able to remove the oil from Solar I without any such problem.

We are just providing back up as a contingency measure, he said. A one-kilometer exclusion zone has been set up by the PCG to prevent other vessels from entering the retrieval operations area, he added. (Nestor P. Burgos, Visayan Daily Star, Mar. 16, 2007)

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