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Raps vs Petron, tanker owner in Guimaras spill junked

March 24, 2007

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Inquirer 03/24/2007

ILOILO CITY – The Guimaras Provincial Prosecutor’s Office has thrown out a criminal complaint by the mayor of Guimaras province’s Nueva Valencia town against Petron Corp. and the owner of the tanker Solar I, whose sinking caused the worst oil spill in the country’s history.

In a 17-page resolution dated March 2, Provincial Prosecutor Luzermindo Calmorin dismissed the complaint “for lack of probable cause.”

“In fine, while it appears that the oil spill has, indeed, caused damage to the affected communities and fisherfolk in the municipality of Nueva Valencia, it does not follow that there is criminal liability involved,” said Calmorin in dismissing the complaint lodged last September 13 by Mayor Diosdado Gonzaga in behalf of his constituents.

The town was the hardest hit of Guimaras’ five municipalities.

The respondents included Petron president Khalid Al-Faddagh, chairman and chief executive officer Nicasio Alcantara, vice president for operations Felimon Antiporda and Carlos Tan, health safety and environment officer and company spokesperson.

Clemente Cancio, president of the Sunshine Maritime Development Corp., owner of Solar I, which sank 13.3 nautical miles off Guimaras on August 11 last year, was also named respondent.

Tan said Calmorin’s resolution was “a welcome development.”

“Nobody wanted the incident to happen and we should not be faulted for this,” Tan said in a telephone interview.

Guimaras provincial legal officer Plaridel Nava II could not be reached for comment.

In his complaint, Gonzaga accused the respondents of violating Republic Act 9275 (Clean Water Act of 2004), Republic Act 8749 (Clean Air Act of 1999) and Republic Act 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000).

He said the oil spill caused massive destruction and damage to the province’s rich marine resources and severely affected their tourism industry and economy. He also pointed out that the fumes coming from the oil sludge caused ailments among the residents and polluted the communities.

Gonzaga also accused Petron and Sunshine of dumping of contaminated debris in San Antonio village and spraying unauthorized chemicals along the shoreline of Barangay (village) Guiwanon in their effort to contain the oil spill.

But in his resolution, Calmorin said the respondents could not be held liable under the Clean Air Act because the law applies to “intentional or deliberate acts.”

“There is nothing on record, not even an allegation by the complainant, that the respondents intentionally sank the MT Solar I and spilled, leaked, dumped or discharged its bunker fuel cargo,” said Calmorin in his resolution.

He said the respondents could also not be made to pay fines and damages because “none of the acts, which would constitute a gross violation of the law, has been alleged or substantiated.”

The prosecutor also cleared the respondents of any violations of the Solid Waste Management Act.

He said the law is not applicable to the cargo of the sunken tanker. “In fact, it was not intended to be discarded but was shipped precisely to be used as a fuel in Zamboanga. It cannot be, therefore, considered as waste or discarded material,” Calmorin noted.

Calmorin said the evidence also showed that there was no intention to permanently dump oil-contaminated debris in San Antonio as that village was used only as a transshipment point for debris collected from the shoreline.

He said the complainant had also failed to show that the oil dispersants employed in the cleanup were prohibited or unauthorized.

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Hasn’t the prosecutor read anything on environmental tort damages? Maybe even something on the Exxon Valdez oil spill incident? Is the prosecutor playing favorites or just plain stupid? My bet is on just one thing. Ka-ching!

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2 comments

  1. Ti, daw amo gid na ya ang natabo! Tan-awon ta lang sa mga sunod nga mga bulan kun may bag-o na na nga salakyan o balay si atty calmorin…


  2. im sorry guys but an action for tort damages is a civil action. what was filed was a criminal case.. if the facts of the case calls for the filing of a civil action, and you filed a criminal case, there is no doubt that your case will be dismissed. Had the mayor filed for tort damages, it would have been a very strong case against the would be defendants. res ipsa loquitor.. the thing speaks for itself. if the oil spill caused damage, it is presumed that the one who caused it is negligent, and it is incumbent upon him to prove otherwise.. failure on his part to negate the said presumption makes him civilly liable…



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