Time to run after culprits of oil spill – Palace adviser

April 3, 2007

David Israel Sinay
Inquirer Visayas Bureau

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – With the remaining cargo recovered from the sunken oil tanker Solar I, the focus should shift to the identification of those responsible for the sinking of the vessel, a Malacañang official said.

Presidential Adviser for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela urged the Department of Justice (DoJ) and other government agencies to take action against those responsible for the oil spill.

Last year, the Board of Marine Inquiry created a special body to determine the circumstances around the sinking of M/T Solar 1, which was carrying 2.1 million liters of bunker fuel for Petron Corp. when it went down nine miles southwest of Guimaras Island on August 11, 2006 while on its way from Bataan to Zamboanga City. The tanker settled at a depth of 640 meters.

In a report submitted to the DoJ last February, the investigative body said that overloading, lapses and incompetence triggered the sinking of the vessel. It ordered the Maritime Industry Authority to file the appropriate administrative charges against Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. (SMDC), owner of the M/T Solar 1; Petron Corp., which chartered the vessel; and the ship’s captain, Norberto Aguro.

The special body concluded that the tanker was overloaded and that Aguro’s incompetence led him to commit a “disabling error of judgment” when he decided to brave the storm. Aguro, who is not a licensed oil tanker master, holds a license for the operation of a chemical tanker.

Also, the report said that the Solar I owner completely disregarded all regulations, policies and requirements for seaworthiness of the vessel while Petron Corp. was liable for overloading industrial fuel oil. However, the oil firm maintained that the cargo was within the vessel’s capacity.

The DoJ and the Senate conducted their own inquiries but it was not clear who would file the complaint or impose the penalties, Coscolluela said. He noted that the attention focused on the recovery operations and the rehabilitation of the coastal areas affected by the catastrophe.

If any government agencies violated regulations or failed to implement the regulations, then they should be held to account, Coscolluela said at a news conference on Monday.

Coscolluela said he will raise the issue during the meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) after the Holy Week.

“We have to make sure something must come out of it, determine the guilty parties. It should not be forgotten. We have learned our lessons. It should be corrected,” he said.

Mark Phibbs, oil retrieval project specialist, said they retrieved 9,000 liters of bunker fuel from the sunken vessel.


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