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Guimaras village head confirms fake claims

April 24, 2007

Francis Allan L. Angelo
2007-04-24
The Daily Guardian

A VILLAGE head of one of the oil spill hit villages in Guimaras confirmed that some claimants were not actual residents of their barangay, making their damage claims filed with the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Funds spurious.

Punong Barangay Ofelia Alonzo of Sabang, in the municipality of Sibunag said some claimants who declared that they are residents of the said village actually hail from other places not affected by the August 11, 2006 M/T Solar 1 oil spill.

In an interview with RMN-Iloilo anchorman Novi Guazo last night, Alonzo said Salvacion Balista, Elemar Nabos, Enrico Amoroso, Lory Madrigalejo, Oliver Espinosa and Leo Ian Espinosa are not from their barangay.

Balista, Nabos, Amoroso and Madrigalejo are believed to be employees of Guimaras Rep. Edgar Epinosa while Oliver and Leo Ian are his nephews.

Alonzo said the damage claims of the said persons did not pass through her office to verify if they are indeed Sabang residents.

The papers of the subject persons also did not get approval of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Council (Farmc).

Alonzo pointed to Sabang Kagawad Nenet Herrera as the one who signed the claims of Balista and others.

The village head said a certain Gerry Yucon and Ramil Lutero, believed to be supporters of Espinosa, helped process the alleged fake claims.

“Under the IOPC arrangement, the verification of the claims will pass through the barangay and Farmc, the municipal government and provincial government. But Espinosa’s group also made their own arrangement which is not allowed,” Alonzo said.

Alonzo’s statement backs the revelation of IOPC deputy director/technical adviser Joe Nichols that “something has gone seriously wrong in the verification process set up in the barangay, municipal and provincial levels.”

Espinosa was still unavailable for comment as of presstime.

The alleged irregularities in the oil spill claims have delayed the payment of the second batch of claims which total 102,600.

The IOPC last year paid roughly P118.5 million to 11,225 Guimaras residents who belong to the first batch.

In his letter to Guimaras Governor JC Rahman Nava, Nichols said that of the 102,600 pending claims, 37,000 have incomplete forms and 1,700 claimants were below 18 years old.

The IPOC was also alarmed by the total number of residents seeking compensation – 113,825 claimants – which accounts for 80 percent of Guimaras population.

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

Nichols said it would take considerable time to scrutinize the pending claims.

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