Wrong charges cleared Petron of the wrong

April 2, 2007

IN MY PACK By Ruth G. Mercado
The Freeman 04/02/2007

IN the Philippines, it does not need a lawyer to uphold the law. In fact, it does not need the law to indict wrong doers. Just last week, officials of Petron Corporation and operators of MV Solar I Sunshine Maritime Corporation were cleared of criminal charges after owning responsibility for the worst oil spill in the country’s maritime history.

The Guimaras Provincial Prosecutor’s Office dismissed criminal complaints against Petron and Sunshine Maritime for “lack of probable cause” in violating the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Ecological Waste Management Act. What prosecutor would indict an oil company or tanker for violating air, water and ecological regulations when the pollution committed was at sea, affecting marine life and involved a ship. No where does it come near air, water or ecology issues. One does not find probable cause in a man accused of murder when he actually committed arson. One does not accuse a man of rape, when actually he embezzled money.

Prosecutors only did what they had to do – dismiss the complaint because charges filed against Petron and Sunshine Maritime were wrong.

While there is dearth of laws regulating the operation of oil tankers or the prosecution of oil spill villains, government is not thoroughly inutile about prosecuting oil polluters if it has the will, resolve, hammer and teeth to do so. How is it that Petron and Sunshine Maritime were not charged for violating the fisheries law on pollution? Or why had they not been charged with Presidential Decree 600 the primary law penalizing oil pollution or the improper handling of hazardous cargoes. If the government was hell bent about prosecuting oil spillers and true killers of marine life, it should have filed complaints with existing laws parallel to the crime.

Bent about going to hell, government detoured from the road of the straight and the narrow and filed token charges if only to appease Guimaras residents. Seeing themselves in an uncompromising and awkward situation where they took responsibility of the oil spill but spared of liability, Petron dangled carrot and candy with rehabilitation initiatives in building schools and other palliative projects.

This slimy issue isn’t about to slip. What this dismissal brought to surface from out of oily issues is murky political engineering among government, maritime authorities and oil spill villains. What are being dismissed from view are allegations of oil pilferage which seems to have submerged with the tanker.

Oil spill and pollution in ocean waters were probably in existence since ships started running in this country. Each day, each minute, each second, channels and seas all over the archipelago are tainted, polluted as ships throw garbage, throw human wastes and throw excess oil at sea. Each moment, ships and tankers rendezvous at mid-sea to transfer or pilfer fuel. One only has to look at the shorelines of the Mactan Channel to see the oily residue and ugly garbage on the beachfront. One only has to wonder why ships ply certain routes without departure clearances.

The 2006 Guimaras oil spill got the spotlight because of the colossal manner by which two million liters of bunker fuel sank on clear weather. While Petron and Sunshine Maritime may have been dismissed, the ticking bomb underneath the sea can’t. Minimal oil has been retrieved from siphon operations. That means much of the two million liters of bunker oil have spread deep, wide and far underneath the ocean killing marine life with each tick of a second.

When that ticking time bomb of environment disaster does explode, humanity will be dismissed too.


One comment

  1. I am from Banton island,Romblon Province. Reports although unconfirmed are coming in lately – since yesterday – about the oil spill coming from the wreck of MV Mactan off the shoreline of barangay Masudsod, Sibali islands northwes of Banton.

    Has there been details of the oil spill in the media?

    Ismael F. Fabicon
    Elmhurst, Illiois

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