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Environmentalists seek probe into Manila Bay oil spill

Environmentalists urge enforcement of laws governing oil pollution damage

Gulf News

Manila: In the wake of the Manila Bay fuel spill, environmentalists are urging strict enforcement of laws governing such accidents, insisting that it was not the first time such a mishap had taken place in the Philippines.

An estimated 500,000 litres of diesel was spilled at Manila Bay from Petron Corp.’s transfer facility in Rosario municipality in Cavite province last Friday. Various quarters are demanding to know who should be held accountable for the accident.

In a statement sent to Gulf News, Clemente Bautista, national co-ordinator of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), said they support calls for an independent investigation of the incident, pointing out that “immediate compensation of affected communities, rehabilitation of the polluted environment and the closure of the Petron Corp.’s oil depot in Rosario is necessary to prevent future oil disasters in the area.”

Bautista recalled a similar incident that took place in Central Philippines several years ago. “Exactly seven years after the worst maritime oil disaster in the Philippines caused by Petron in the province of Guimaras, the same oil giant has caused a repeat performance in Manila Bay with yet another oil spill affecting several towns in Cavite province. It’s the same story again: fish and shellfish kills, affected coral reefs, and immediate impact on the health and livelihood of coastal communities,” he said.

In 2006, Petron spilled 500,000 litres of bunker fuel from its contracted oil tanker M/T Solar 1 in the southern coast of Guimaras. The apparent dumping had affected marine sanctuaries and mangrove expanses in three out of five municipalities of the province, even reaching the shores of the adjacent islands of Iloilo and Negros Occidental.

Fuel spill in 2010

In 2010, it was also reported that Petron’s oil depot in Rosario, Cavite, figured in an inadvertent fuel spill after its submarine pipelines were damaged during a typhoon.

“Environmental and social justice remains elusive in the case of Petron’s oil spill in Guimaras. This had better not be the same story of the environment department, letting Petron run scot-free yet again when it clearly violated the Clean Water Act and various other environmental laws,” Bautista said.

Congressman Arnel Ty of the party-list LPGMA said the country has strict laws governing “liability for oil pollution damage and ensuring prompt and adequate reparation for affected people, including fisherfolk.”

The lawmaker was referring to the Oil Pollution Compensation Law of 2007 which enforces in the country all international rules on accountability for fuel spill damage on ship owners and companies that receive petroleum after sea transport.

According to reports, the diesel fuel slick has already covered a 300-square kilometre area in Rosario, with more than 40,000 people in coastal areas suffering from the effects of the spill.

People had to wear surgical masks to keep away the stench of the fuel while fishermen have been unable to visit fishing grounds. Fishing is a central economic activity in the town and surrounding municipalities.