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Close monitoring of oil spill’s long-term impact urged

April 2, 2007

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
The News Today,
April 2, 2007

SCIENTISTS have stressed the importance of continuous and close monitoring of the long-term impact of the oil spill in Guimaras after it was confirmed that almost all of the total 2.1 million liters of bunker fuel cargo of Solar I was spilled.

The monitoring and researches would determine the impact of the bunker fuel on the affected habitat especially hundreds of hectares of contaminated mangroves, said Glenn Aguilar, University of the Philippines in the Visayas chancellor and head of the technical and scientific advisory group of the Task Force Solar I Oil Spill.

Aguilar said in a briefing Friday that strict monitoring is critical not only in assessing and addressing the impact in Guimaras but also in formulating protocols to respond to future oil spills.

Officials of the Task Force SOS have declared that almost all of the cargo of the sunken tanker has been spilled after minimal oil was recovered in the three-week operation undertaken by salvaging and recovery firm Sonsub.

Carlos Tan, Petron spokesperson for the oil spill incident, said less than 5,000 liters of bunker fuel have been recovered from the ten cargo tanks of the Solar I wreck, lying 639 meters underwater 9 miles south of the island-province of Guimaras.

The recovery operations ended yesterday and the demobilization of all equipment and personnel involved in the$6 million-operation will be completed this week.

“The threat to further spillage is gone,” said Glen Rabonza, executive officer of the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

Rabonza said agencies can now focus on the rehabilitation and restoration of damaged the environment.

Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela, head of the TF SOS, said stronger laws and rules are necessary for a more effective response to oil spills.

He said they would also work on defining protected sea lanes and routes which would keep away vessels especially those carrying hazardous material from sensitive areas.

There is also a need to institute disaster response preparedness programs to prepare villages especially near the coastline to respond to oil spills.

Coscolluela said a major concern in the rehabilitation efforts is the release of the bulk of the P867 million rehabilitation fund approved by Congress last year.

“We have yet to see substantial release of rehabilitation funds,” said Coscolluela.

Aguilar said scientists are also formulating an Environmental Sensitivity Index which would serve as a guide not only for Guimaras but for other areas. The index will define areas and habitat sensitive to oil spills and the science-based protocol to respond to any oil spill incidents.

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