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IOPC reduces number of 2nd round claimants

June 7, 2007

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
The News Today, June 6, 2007

Out of the more than 100,000 claims submitted by the second round of claimants for pollution damages from the Petron oil spill in Guimaras, only 2,600 have been found duly accomplished, the head of the regional task force on the oil spill said.

Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela, head of the regional task force Solar I Oil Spill, said the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Fund has set aside the rest of the claims because they lacked information.

Coscolluela made the announcement as he warned against a spurious letter sent to barangay officials in Guimaras announcing that payments for the second batch of claimants will be released starting this month.

He said IOPC claims manager Patrick Joseph has denied that any official of their organization issued the letters. The IOPC is a London-based intergovernmental agency that indemnifies losses resulting from oil spills.

Coscolluela said that Joseph has informed him that no payments are possible this month because the IOPC is still validating the claim forms submitted by the second batch of claimants.

The IOPC has finished examining the forms but have not started validating the claims, said Coscolluela.

“The IOPC said the letter is a fake and that the signature is a forgery,” Coscolluela said in a telephone interview.

He said the IOPC claims office in Guimaras got hold of a copy of the letter sent to barangay captains on the island after the barangay officials tried to verify the notice.

The one-page letter dated May 18 informed the barangay captains that the payment for the second batch of claimants for pollution damages resulting from the August 2006 oil spill will be released starting this month.

The letter, purportedly signed by IOPC Deputy Director Joe Nichols, also instructed the claimants to bring valid identification cards and their residence certificate.

The IOPC earlier raised alarm over the large number of claimants for the second batch. It said the number of claimants, including the 11,400 already paid, is already 80 percent of the total population of Guimaras Island. It pointed out that the oil spill could not have affected such a large number of residents.

Nichols had also lamented how the compensation fund was used for political reasons by rival Guimaras officials during the election campaign period.

Coscolluela said they could not yet explain the proliferation of the fake letters and who is responsible.

“What could be the motive and who will benefit from this?” said Coscolluela.

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.

It has also paid P2,790,614 to 819 residents of coastal villages of Iloilo city and P57 million to around 11,000 claimants of Iloilo province.

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