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GMA backs creation of fund on oil pollution

June 7, 2007

By Joyce Pangco Pañares
Manila Standard, June 6, 2007

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will support the bill establishing an Oil Pollution Management Fund, a proposal that came up following the Guimaras oil spill in August last year.

A similar measure, the proposed Oil Pollution Compensation Act, was crafted last year but the President could not act on it because she was on foreign trip most of the time, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said .

“Definitely she supports that even if she failed to sign it. That is a very important measure and she will not veto it,” Ermita said.

The bill, authored by Senator Pia Cayetano, who chairs the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, seeks to establish who should shoulder the cost of emergency containment and cleanup operations as well as the compensation for damages to health and livelihood during oil spill incidents.

“This measure is the product of the series of hearings and on-site inquiries we conducted during two of the worst spill incidents that struck the country in the last two years,” Cayetano said.

The lawmaker was referring to the Napocor power barge 106 oil spill off Semirara Island in December 2005 and the Solar I oil spill off the coast of Guimaras Island in August 2006.

An estimated 200,000 liters of bunker fuel spilled off the waters of Semirara Island and damaged 113 hectares of mangrove and beach area.

Last year, the worst oil spill in the country’s history occurred off the coast of Guimaras where some 1.8 million liters of bunker fuel chartered by oil giant Petron Corp. polluted the island’s waters.

Ermita said a salient point of the bill is the creation of the fund which will be used to cover containment and cleanup operations by the Philippine Coast Guard in the case of an oil spill.

It will also require any person or firm that will ship more than 150,000 tons of oil to report and pay contributions to the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund.

The bill was approved by the Senate in February and has been transmitted last month to Malacañang for the President’s approval. Congress rules state that a bill will become law 30 days after it has been approved or if it is signed by the President into law.

Three months ago, the IOPC has started paying nearly P3 million to the residents of Iloilo City who were affected by the oil spill in Guimaras. An additional P57 million will also be released to around 11,000 more claimants elsewhere in the province.

Last year, the IOPC paid around P118.5 million to more than 10,000 residents in Guimaras as indemnification for their losses resulting from the oil spill.

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