Archive for July, 2007

h1

Charges filed vs. Solar 1 owners, says DOJ chief

July 27, 2007

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
The News Today, July 26, 2007

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has denied the statement of the head of a regional inter-agency task force on the Petron oil spill that it failed to file the appropriate charges against those responsible for the country’s worst oil spill.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Sr. lashed at Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela, head of the Task Force Solar I Oil Spill, for saying that no one has been charged for the oil spill.

“Mr. Coscolluela is very wrong. He might end up eating his words,” Gonzalez said in a telephone interview.

Gonzalez pointed out that criminal charges were filed early this year against owners of the M/T Solar which sank 13.5 miles off Guimaras on August 11, 2006.

The 998-gross-ton tanker owned by Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. (SDMC) was contracted by the giant oil firm Petron to ship fuel to Western Mindanao Power Corp. in Zamboanga del Sur.

The tanker was carrying 13,000 barrels or 2 million liters of bunker fuel in the vessel’s 10 tanks when it sank amid rough seas.

DOJ Undersecretary Fidel Esconde, a member of the DOJ panel that investigated the oil spill, said it filed in March this year charges against SDMC officials for violating the Anti-Dummy Law (Commonwealth Act No. 108 as amended by Presidential Decree No. 715).

Among those charged were before the Manila Regional Trial Court were Japanese nationals Hiroyasu Yamaguchi, Mototsugu Yamaguchi, Tomoki Tsubomoto and Hiromi Irishika, and Filipinos Clemente Cancio, Roberto Mena, Gregorio Flores and Angelita Buenaventura.

The respondents were charged after an investigation of the five-member DOJ panel found the Japanese officials to be illegally occupying key positions in the corporation. The Japanese incorporators also largely controlled the company and were intervening in its management, operation, administration and control, according the results of the DOJ investigation.

Esconde said Guimaras officials had also filed criminal charges against Petron and SDMC officials for violating environmental laws.

But he pointed out that the charges and the subsequent appeal of the petitioners were dismissed by the Guimaras provincial prosecutor’s office.

Guimaras provincial prosecutor Luzermindo Calmorin had dismissed the complaint against Petron and SDMC officials for violating Republic Act No. 9275 (Clean Water Act of 2004), RA 8749 (Clean Air Act of 1999) and RA 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000) for lack of evidence.

Calmorin had said in his resolution that the sinking of the tanker and the oil spill were unintentional acts.

“We are waiting for the petitioners to appeal the resolution of the Guimaras provincial prosecutor’s office before we can act on it,” said Esconde in a telephone interview.

Coscolluela said he was unaware that charges have been filed against anyone in relation to the oil spill because the DOJ failed to report it in meetings of the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

“If a case has indeed been filed, then we are happy to hear that,” Coscolluela said in a telephone interview.

Advertisements
h1

Oil spills are commonplace, decried, and tolerated

July 27, 2007

Far from isolated mega-catastrophes – such as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska’s Prince William Sound – oil spills occur routinely around the world, causing environmental and economic damage, provoking investigations by regional governments, and often leaving the victims unsatisfied.

Entering the words “oil spill” in the Google News search engine returned more than 2,500 distinct articles published in the last 30 days on the topic.

At the top of the news right now is the 100-foot fountain of petroleum that smothered the Canadian town of Burnaby this week, after a pipeline was pierced by a road-excavation crew.

(Read the rest at Newsdesk.org.)

h1

Fisherfolk want IOPC to apologize for saying spill victims faked claims

July 26, 2007

By Jonathan Mayuga
Correspondent
BusinessMirror, July 26, 2007

THE militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Tuesday criticized the International Oil Pollution Council (IOPC) for rejecting outright the second batch of damage claims in connection with the Guimaras oil spill.

The group also demanded that IOPC issue a public apology for implicating the claimants in an alleged “money-making scheme” in applying for claims in the oil spill.

“They want a walk-in-the park escape. This is foul, a blatant attempt to score a wholesale injustice to the victims of the Guimaras oil spill tragedy,” Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

Hicap was reacting to reports the IOPC has identified less than 200 of the over 100,000 claims included in the second batch of claims for further review and validation, as revealed by Rafael Coscolluela, Malacañang designated presidential assistant for Western Visayas.

The IOPC has paid out a P177-million settlement to the first batch of claims made by over 22,000 people whose livelihood was affected after M/T Solar 1 sank off the waters of Guimaras on August 2006, spilling 2.1 million liters of bunker fuel.

Coscolluela learned from IOPC claims manager Patrick Joseph that the international compensation board rejected 99,800 claimants because they failed to meet the criteria for filing claims. He said the IOPC believed most of the claims were politically accommodated by local government units.

The IOPC said the claims were filed before the elections. Since many people heard that the first batch of claimants received claims of up to P30,000, the group said somebody might have advised other people to file their claims before the international pollution body.

Many applicants failed to comply with the documentary requirements, it said, adding that most claimants in the second batch were not listed as residents, were not registered voters and were not listed as members of any fishermen’s organizations, or were underage.

“This is preposterous. The set of criteria is short of saying that the IOPC will no longer entertain claimants,” Hicap said.

Pamalakaya urged the IOPC to apologize to the Filipino people for maligning them.

h1

W. Visayas leader takes swipe at DOJ

July 24, 2007

THE SOUTHERN BEAT By Rolly Espina
Philippine Star, July 24, 2007

(Excerpt)

NEGRENSE officials expressed hopes that the torrid issue on the speakership of the House of Representatives could end before yesterday’s State of the National Address by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

One of those who optimistically predicted that the issue could be settled before the President addresses the joint session of 14th Congress yesterday was Rep. Monico Puentevella (Bacolod City).

Of course, that had never happened before – the postponement of the SONA. Very unlikely that could occur. But the determined effort by the forces behind Rep. Pablo Garcia (Cebu) to demand for a secret balloting was the one that led to the impasse Saturday.

Still, it is our hope that the leaders of the lower chamber could settle their dispute over the speakership and come up with a compromise before the actual delivery of the SONA.

But Western Visayas was jarred when Presidential Adviser for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela took to task the Department of Justice for doing nothing or simply sitting down on the Guimaras Oil Spill, the country’s worst environmental disaster.

Although that was played up by the Panay News, a daily that has consistently been opposed to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, the article was detailed in recounting what Coscolluela stated during the launching of the Department of Tourism ecological tourism initiative.

Coscolluela reported revealed that last month, during the meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, he had raised his concern. That the Senate and the Special Board of Marine Inquiry investigation reports had been forwarded to the DOJ. The department, however, apparently sat on it.

At the time, before the NDCC meet, Coscolluela said the DOJ representative was not aware of the status of the case.

“Maybe, Coscolluela pointed out, the DOJ is still gathering more evidences prior to the filing of charges. What charges to file, and against whom to file.”

Whatever the merit of the public complaint by Coscolluela, the DOJ secretary cannot just shrug it off.

We hope acting DOJ chief Raul Gonzalez can clarify the seeming wishy-shy attitude of the DOJ over the Guimaras oil spill.

h1

IOPCF junks 125,480 oil spill claims

July 23, 2007

By Maricar M. Calubiran
The News Today, July 23, 2007

THE International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPFF) has initially approved 134 applications, out of the 125,614 second batch of claimants for compensation due to the oil spill which occurred last August 11 in the waters off the island-province of Guimaras.

This was revealed by Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela in an interview last week. Coscolluela, however, said the 134 applications would still be processed for final screening by the IOPCF.

Coscolluela, chair of the Task Force SOS, said the remaining 125,480 claims were disapproved by the Fund for lack of substantial proof that the applicants were directly affected by the oil spill.

The release of the compensation to the oil spill victims in Guimaras was met with controversy after it was found out that some of the relatives of former congressman Edgar Espinosa were listed as recipients even if they were not qualified.

Coscolluela said practically all the applicants managed to get the endorsement of either the congressman or the governor.

Coscolluela observed that more people filed the claims in the second batch after learning that their neighbors received from P2,000 to as high as P30,000 in compensaton.

Task Force reported that IOPCF has paid out around P177 million in settlement of claims to over 22,000 affected fisherfolk in Guimaras.

The report was attested to by retired Gen. Glen Rabonza of the National Disaster Coordinating Council and Marilou Ernie of Petron.

Task Force SOS, in a report in June, declared that “(i)n less than a year, life in Guimaras has been restored.”

In the same report, the task force said the government is pursuing programs to strengthen oil-spill response capability, by working on an updated and comprehensive National Oil Spill Contingency Plan, upgrading the Philippine Coast Guard and Maritime Police equipment as well as the NDCC Operations Center, and capacity-building through localized emergency response preparedness training.

Further, the task force said the scientific community, led by UP Visayas, has also been working to develop a science-based approach to oil-spill impact assessment and environmental rehabilitation. Their work will contribute valuable inputs for current and future responses.

The operations to recover oil from Solar 1 were completed without spilling any oil on either land or sea. Likewise, all recovered oily debris were shipped out for reprocessing/reuse outside of Guimaras. (PR na PR ang dating!)

h1

No Guimaras repeat, Coast Guard tells Quezon folk

July 18, 2007

GMANews.TV, July 17, 2007

THE Coast Guard allayed Tuesday fears of a repeat of the Guimaras oil spill, considered the worst environmental disaster in Philippine maritime history, following the sinking of a ferry vessel off the coast of Quezon province last week.

Iglesia ni Cristo-run dzEC radio reported Tuesday that Coast Guard spokesman Lieutenant Senior Grade Armand Balilo said the oil carried by the ill-fated M/V Blue Water Princess in the Quezon mishap was different from that in the Guimaras spill.

Balilo said the M/V Blue Water Princess roll-on-roll-off vessel was carrying “white diesel,” which he described as “environmentally friendly” and can be absorbed by marine life.

Earlier reports indicated the ill-fated RORO vessel was carrying some 8,000 liters of oil when it ran aground and eventually sank some 500 meters from the San Francisco coast. At least 11 people died in the incident.

In contrast, the barge M/T Solar I was carrying more than 2.2 million liters of bunker oil when it sank off Guimaras province in Western Visayas in August last year.

The bunker fuel spilled into the water and affected marine life in the area, displacing hundreds of families along the coastal areas who depend on fishing for a living.

It also affected tourism in Guimaras and Iloilo.