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Avoiding another Guimaras

March 19, 2008

By Jojo Robles
Mla. Standard Today/opinion
Mar. 19, 2008

Now that crude oil is trading at all-time record high prices in the world market, it’s easy to forget that while the oil companies have a very expensive product, they also need to ensure that its delivery is safe. Two years ago, it seemed that we learned that lesson the hard way—even if it now appears that we haven’t learned anything at all.

In the aftermath of the disastrous sinking of the M/V Solar I in August 2006 off the coast of Guimaras Island, President Arroyo instructed the Maritime Industry Authority to immediately order operators of oil tankers to use double-hull vessels when transporting their expensive—and extremely toxic—cargo. Now, when many Filipinos living away from that disaster area have forgotten the horrors of that incident, some players in the tanker contracting industry are hell-bent on stopping Marina from implementing that presidential directive, way beyond the deadline for compliance with local and international regulations.

That most of the 20 or so companies engaged in transporting 75 percent of all of the imported oil used in the Philippines are fighting the implementation of the double-hull rule is understandable, given the expense entailed in the rental of compliant ships and the refitting of their existing vessels. That doesn’t mean they should be allowed to continue using dangerous single-hull ships to ferry their cargo—unless we want a repeat of Guimaras.

For those who may have forgotten, the Petron-contracted Solar I dumped more than 2 million liters of industrial fuel oil along 200 kilometers of pristine Guimaras coastline, destroying 1,128 hectares of mangroves and the livelihood of 22,000 fishermen in what was once rich fishing grounds. While Malacañang released P20 million in calamity funds to the area’s residents, this was a mere pittance compared to the actual damage and the clean-up costs, which were estimated in the neighborhood of P400 million.

(Click Avoiding another Guimaras for the rest.)

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