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Oil rehab fund for Concepcion to be used for ecological camp

March 7, 2008

By Maricar M. Calubiran
The News Today
March 5, 2008

Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias yesterday said the P6.5 million oil spill fund intended for the municipality of Concepcion in Iloilo would be spent for the establishment of an “ecological camp” in said town. The P6.5 million came from the special budget allocated by the national government and coursed through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Banias, who has been the municipal mayor of the town for nine years said the ecological camp includes mangroves reforestation, protection of marine protected areas, establishment of additional marine protected areas and organizing of small fisherfolks.

The August 11, 2006 oil spill in Guimaras did not only affect the island but some coastal towns in Iloilo. In Concepcion, 10 barangays were affected by the oil spill. The MT Solar I was carrying 2.2 million liters of bunker fuel when it sank off the coast of Guimaras island. It was Petron that chartered the tanker to transport fuel from its Limay port in Bataan to Zamboaga City.

Banias said DENR is now on the process of transferring the fund to the municipal government of Concepcion. The P6.5 million oil rehabilitation fund is different from the fund to be released by the Department of Social Welfare and Development Office, said Banias.

Meanwhile, Banias stressed the importance of good governance and responsible tourism. He was very proud of his accomplishments during his term as the town’s municipal mayor. The town has been recipient of both national and international awards for the successful outcome of the projects he introduced to the town.

In yesterday’s workshop on The Environmental Security on Tourism (TEST), Banias told the attendees that he refused an offer from an international Japanese salvage group to salvage a sunken Japanese vessel in the Pan de Azucar.

The former town mayor said he wants to preserve the area for tourism and historical purposes. Banias said his decision is a manifestation of good governance. Until now, the vessel stays in the area where it sunk number of decades ago.

Local history said that on September 1944, a Japanese transport vessel and a convoy of naval boats were attacked by American air and naval forces. Four days after the fierce battle not one of the Japanese vessels remained afloat. Today, the mast of a ship could be seen protruding above the water during the low tide at the Pan de Azucar island.

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