BY NESTOR BURGOS JR.
Visayan Daily Star, Aug. 15, 2007
ILOILO CITY — A research team from a Toronto-based law school has called for a long-term rehabilitation plan in mental and pyschological health for residents affected by the massive oil spill that ravaged Guimaras Island last year, and other disasters.
The three-member team, composed of students of the Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, pointed out that there is lack of long-term rehabilitation plans in mental and psycho-social health for the affected residents. The team called for a comprehensive psycho-social rehabilitation program for victims of the oil spill and similar disasters that would include the automatic evaluation of psycho-social needs after the disaster, training of workers on stress management, providing on-site pyscho-social support units and designation of an institute to manage the program.
The recommendation is among several drawn up by the group after conducting a three-month research aimed at improving the emergency response process based on the experience dealing with the August 11, 2006 oil spill in Guimaras.
The research, done in partnership with the Canadian Urban Institute, was conducted with interviews with stakeholders and gathering of data on institutional competency and operational efficiency of the various agencies involved in the response and rehabilitation efforts.
The research also called for major reforms including legislation in the country’s disaster management laws, regulations, guidelines and procedures.
A preliminary study conducted on the pyscho-social impact of oil spill by doctors belonging to environmental group We Heal and the Iloilo Medical Society last year said residents in Sibunag town and in Barangay Lapaz in Nueva Valecia, among the hardest hit areas by the oil spill, showed common symptoms resulting from the disaster.
The most common include trouble thinking clearly, poor sleep, feeling tired all the time, poor appetite, tense or worried and indecisiveness. The emotional symptoms include feeling unhappy, difficulty in enjoying work and loss of interest in activities.
A separate study conducted by sociologist Artchil Fernandez of the Central Philippine University Research Center showed that in areas affected by the oil spill, there was a significant decrease of community cooperation.
Fernandez said in his research that conflicts related to clean up projects on who got hired by Petron Corp. in the cleanup operations strained relationships in the community. Conflicts also arouse over the distribution and rationing of relief packages and goods
There was also a significant increase of family separation because family members transferred to evacuation centers or were forced to work in the cleanup or in other provinces.
The doctors and psychologists recommended that formal studies should be conducted not only on victims but on caregivers or health workers. They also recommended the development of a mental health program in primary health care in order to address the mental health needs of the community.