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Local execs to appeal dismissal of Guimaras suit vs Petron

March 27, 2007

Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Inquirer Visayas Bureau
March 25, 2007

ILOILO CITY – Two environmental groups strongly criticized the decision of the Guimaras Prosecutors’ Office to junk a complaint against officials of Petron Corp. and the owner of the sunken tanker Solar 1 for the August 2006 Visayas oil spill.

Greenpeace and Save Our Lives, SOS! maintained Petron should be made to answer for the oil spill that had destroyed the livelihood of thousands of Guimaras residents and devastated the island’s rich marine resources.

Greenpeace said the junking of the criminal complainant against Petron was “most unfortunate.”

“The ruling glosses over the company’s responsibilities for what stands as one the worst environmental disasters in Philippine history,” said Von Hernandez, campaign director of Greenpeace in Southeast Asia.

Hernandez said that while the oil firm had no intention of causing the oil spill, “Petron’s negligence in exercising duty of care over the cargo it intended to profit from is criminal. The company has to be made liable for this criminal negligence.”

Save Our Lives, SOS!, composed of non-government organizations, scientists and environmentalists, said the cleanup and rehabilitation of the affected areas and residents were only parts of addressing the oil spill.

“We must make sure that justice will be given to all the victims by punishing those responsible for this manmade catastrophe,” Save our Lives, SOS! coordinator Ma. Geobelyn Lopez said.

Meanwhile, Guimaras provincial legal officer Plaridel Nava II said they would file a motion for reconsideration on Monday.

While they agree that the sinking of the tanker and the oil were unintentional, Nava said they would point out that Petron and the owner of the tanker were criminally liable for reckless imprudence.

He pointed out that the Solar I was not seaworthy when it sailed on August 11, 2006 and eventually sank 13.3 miles southwest of Guimaras Island.

Nueva Valencia Mayor Diosdado Gonzaga, in a telephone interview, said they would pursue the complaint because of the damage caused by the oil spill. Nueva Valencia was the hardest hit of Guimaras’ towns by the spill.

Guimaras Governor JC Rahman Nava said they were saddened with the dismissal of the complaint.

“We will exhaust whatever legal measures that are available to us,” the governor said, in a telephone interview.

The governor also denied the complaint that they filed was inherently weak.

Guimaras provincial prosecutor Luzermindo Calmorin issued a 17-page resolution on March 2 dismissing the criminal complaint filed against Petron officials and the owner of the sunken tanker for lack of probable cause.

Gonzaga had accused Petron officials and Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. 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).

Calmorin said in his resolution that the respondents could not be held criminally liable because the sinking of the tanker and the oil spill were unintentional.

He also dismissed the complainant’s allegation that the personnel hired by the oil firm dumped contaminated debris in a village in Nueva Valencia and sprayed chemicals in the shoreline without authorization.

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