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Guimaras chief: Oil spill claims verification is IOPC’s job

April 24, 2007

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
The News Today, April 24, 2007

Guimaras Governor JC Rahman Nava has washed his hands off the recent controversy involving the second batch of oil spill claims which the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) dubbed as “incredulous.”

When reached for comment by mobile phone yesterday, Nava said the process for submission and verification of claims has not been followed.

“It’s up to the IOPC to verify the claims because we could not control the number of claimants anymore,” said Nava.

He blamed the deluge of claimants to “misinformation”. He did not elaborate.

Earlier, the IOPC through its Deputy Director and Technical Adviser Joe Nichols wrote Governor Nava expressing alarm over the large number of claimants asking for compensation for damages brought by the massive oil spill in Guimaras.

The IOPC, a London-based intergovernmental agency that indemnifies losses resulting from oil spills, finds the number of the second batch of claimants “incredulous.”

“The (Shipowners’ Club) and the Fund are somewhat alarmed at the number of claims forms included in the second batch, which total 102,600,” said Nichols in his letter to Nava dated March 30.

Nichols said that this number combined with around 11,400 claimants already paid in the first batch, comprised 80 percent of the total population of Guimaras Island (154,000).

“The Club and the Fund find it hard to accept that such a proportion of the population of Guimaras Island could have suffered pollution damage as defined in the 1992 Civil Liability Convention and 1992 Fund Convention,” said Nichols.

The IOPC also found irregularities in the claims.

Nichols said that while they have not completed the initial examination of all the 102,600 forms, they have identified nearly 37,000 incomplete forms. They also discovered that 1,700 forms were submitted by people under 18 years old.

“This suggests that something has gone seriously wrong in the verification process set up in the barangay, municipal and provincial levels,” said Nichols.

The IOPC last year paid around P118.5 million to more than 11,000 residents of Guimaras Island whose livelihood were affected after the Solar I sank on Aug. 12 spilling 2.1 million liters of bunker fuel it was transporting for Petron from Bataan to Zamboanga. The victims each got around from P4,800 to P32,000.

Last month, it also paid P2,790,614 to 819 residents of coastal villages of Iloilo city who received checks ranging from P1,200 to P6,200.

The IOPC is currently paying around 11,000 claimants of Iloilo province amounting to a total of P57 million.

The IOPC will be processing and paying the second batch of claimants after the Iloilo claimants have been paid.

But Nichols said the payment of more Guimaras claimants will be delayed because of the number of claims submitted.

“As a result of the unexpected number of claims in the second batch, the Club and the Fund have no alternative but to scrutinize each claim form in detail and to take action to ensure that the claimants have legitimate claims that are admissible for compensation under the international conventions,” said Nichols.

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