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Solar I spilled almost 2M liters of oil off Guimaras

March 29, 2007

By Carla Gomez and Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Inquirer Visayas Bureau
2007-03-28

ILOILO CITY—The MT Solar I spilled close to two million liters of bunker fuel when it sank off the coast of Guimaras Island in August last year, not just 350,000 liters as initially thought.

The volume officially makes the Aug. 11, 2006 oil spill the worst in the country’s history followed by the December 2005 oil spill off Semirara Island, which involved more than 300,000 liters of bunker fuel.

Officials involved in the oil recovery operation reached this conclusion yesterday after they found that at least five tanks on board the Solar I were empty, according to Carlos Tan, the health, safety and environment officer of Petron Corp.

As of yesterday, 9 of the 10 tanks, which were supposed to contain 2.2 million liters of oil on board the tanker, had been opened by the Allied Shield, a vessel tasked with retrieving oil from the sunken vessel. Only 5,000 liters of oil were found in them, Tan said.

With only one more tank to open, Tan said it was believed that the bulk of the oil cargo spilled out but he gave assurance that the cleanup of the oil that hit the coast of Guimaras had already been completed.

Rafael Coscolluela, presidential assistant for Western Visayas and the spokesperson of the regional Task Force Solar I Oil Spill (TF SOS), confirmed that a minimal amount of bunker fuel was found inside the wreck of the Solar I, which was lying 639 meters underwater, 9 miles south of the island province of Guimaras.

“It appears that most of the oil was already released at the height of the oil spill,” Coscolluela told the Inquirer in a telephone interview.

Coscolluela said the nine cargo tanks accessed by the operation had minimal amount of bunker fuel or were empty.

The total amount of oil recovered 16 days into the operation reached only around five cubic meters. The amount is not even enough to fill up the shuttle that transports the recovered oil underwater to the Allied Shield ship on the surface hovering over the site of the wreck, said Coscolluela.

Solar I has 10 cargo compartments with five on each side of the ship. Each compartment has an average capacity of 200,000 liters or a total of 2.195 million liters.

Solar I was carrying 2.1 million liters of oil owned by Petron Corp. when it sank amid stormy weather. Previous Coast Guard estimates on the remaining bunker fuel left inside Solar I were from 250,000 liters to 300,000 liters.

The oil spill wrought destruction on 27 villages in the towns of Nueva Valencia, Sibunag, San Lorenzo, Jordan and Buenavista in Guimaras and in the towns of Sara, Concepcion and Oton in Iloilo. It also reached the coastal villages of Iloilo City.

It brought hardships to 6,156 families or 30,531 persons, mostly fishermen who lost their livelihood.

The island’s rich marine resources were also devastated with 239 km of coastline, 15.8 sq km of coral reefs, 105 hectares of mangroves and 42 ha of seaweeds damaged or destroyed.

Hundreds of residents were stricken with pulmonary diseases at the height of the oil spill and were evacuated from their homes after the oil sludge reach their shores.

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(From Petron’s web site)

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