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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.

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