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IOPC oil spill compensation scam exposed

April 9, 2007

•FAKE CLAIMS

By Francis Allan L. Angelo
The Daily Guardian
2007-04-09

THE tragedy called Solar 1 Oil Spill which hit the provinces of Guimaras and Iloilo has spawned a major scam involving fake claimants who received compensation from the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds.

Several claimants, who asked for anonymity out of fear for their lives, from Guimaras and some southern and central Iloilo towns alleged they were used by their provincial and municipal officials to file dubious claims with the IOPCF.

These sources said they were made to fill up the prescribed compensation forms and sign a special power of attorney (SPA) authorizing certain local government officials to process the claims with the IOPCF.

Once the claim is approved, the funds will be coursed through the mayors. But instead of giving the full amount being claimed, the mayor will only give half of the amount to the claimant.

Reports from Guimaras said the mayors or their representatives who processed the claims were entitled to cuts ranging from 10 to 50 percent per approved compensation.

Worse, claimants from inland areas, tricycle drives and even beauty parlor owners and workers got paid for damages caused by the oil spill.

The oil spill incident – triggered by the sinking of M/T Solar 1 loaded with more than 2 million liters of bunker fuel owned by Petron Corp. – affected mangroves, fishing grounds, seaweed farms and pristine beaches.

Consequently, thousands of Guimaras and Iloilo fisherfolks were displaced because of low fish catch and dangerous effects of the spilled oil.

The IOPCF is an international organization of states, petroleum companies and tanker owners providing compensation for oil pollution damage resulting from spills of persistent oil from tankers.

Last year, the IOPCF paid some US$2.4 million (roughly P118.5 million) to 11,225 Guimaras residents. The total amount set aside for the Guimaras residents alone was $330 million, according to the IOPCF website.

The fund also paid over P2 million to affected residents from Iloilo City coastal barangays.

After Holy Week, a total of 11,200 fishermen from the towns of Guimbal in southern Iloilo and Barotac Nuevo, Ajuy and Concepcion in northern Iloilo would be compensated, with amounts ranging from P630 to P28,000.

Last week, the Italian firm Sonsub concluded its oil retrieval operation on Solar 1 with only 9,000 liters of bunker oil recovered from the tanker.

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