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IOPC likely to reject remaining oil spill claimants

August 9, 2007

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
The News Today, Aug. 9, 2007

GUIMARAS ISLAND — A London-based inter-governmental agency that indemnifies victims of oil spill pollution said it is likely that it will reject, “most, if not all,” of around 100,000 additional claimants for damages from Guimaras Island.

The International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Fund said in the June 12 report of its executive committee that the claims will be rejected because of the doubts raised by the high number of claimants and defects in the submitted claim forms.

It noted that the number, combined with the number of claimants that had previously submitted claims, represented about 80 percent of the population of Guimaras.

“The majority of the claims registration forms were incomplete and that a significant number were from people under the age of 18 years, the minimum age at which people are allowed to engage in fishing,” the report said.

The agency has paid a total of P169.9 million to 22,644 claimants (11,321 claimants amounting to P113 million in Guimaras and 11,323 amounting to P56,937,752 in Iloilo) for economic damages resulting from the oil spill, according to the report.

The IOPC, has still to settle the claims for around 1,000 claimants from Guimaras who have tapped a Manila-based law firm to claim compensation reaching P280.3 million.

The Fund said that among the 1,000 claimants, it has already settled the claims of around 166 residents and another 228 claimants had already received settlement offers. The remaining 633 claimants need to submit further documentary evidence to confirm that they were bona fide fisherfolk and that they had suffered pollution damage.

The IOPC has also paid compensation to 49 resort owners totaling P1,501,195. It is still assessing 317 claims in the tourism sector, mainly from owners of small resorts and tour boat operators, for a total of P147,677,105.

Another 17 owners of beach properties have claimed for compensation reaching P5,775,599 for damage and loss of sand from their property due to the clean-up operations.

The IOPC is also assessing the claims of 407 seaweed farmers amounting to P52,265,526 and of 313 fish pond operators amounting to P340,209,239 million. It also has not issued payments to the claim of the Philippine Coastguard for P439,806,223 for expenses incurred during the response operations to the oil spill.

The Fund has paid an initial $3.7 million out of the total $4.5 million to three contractors involved in the offshore cleanup and $5,810,726 for the oil removal operations from the sunken tanker. It has also reimbursed Petron Corp. P118 million for the costs of shoreline cleanup.

The IOPC is also assessing the proposal of the Department of Environment and Natural Resource to conduct post-spill studies and the rehabilitation of coastal natural resources, particularly mangroves, costing P130 million. It also has yet to decide on the claim of local government units in the towns of San Lorenzo, Sibunag and Nueva Valencia for a P18,665,892 as costs and daily salaries of the municipal staff who had been involved in the response to the incident.

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