Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 28      August 20 - 26, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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Guimaras Oil Spill Ship Found Unfit for Sailing
Ship captain had no oil management and safety training

Initial findings from a Board of Marine Inquiry investigation of the Aug. 11 oil spill in Guimaras reveal that the safety management certificate of Solar 1, the ship that figured in the disaster, had already expired. Moreover, the board suspended the ship’s captain Norberto Aguro for failing to undergo oil tanker training and management.


BACOLOD CITY – Initial findings from a Board of Marine Inquiry investigation of the Aug. 11 oil spill in Guimaras reveal that the safety management certificate of Solar 1, the ship that figured in the disaster, had already expired. The board also suspended the ship’s captain Norberto Aguro for failing to undergo oil tanker training and management.

Residents of the coastal village
of Sumirib use shovels to collect sludge deposited on the coastline of Guimaras island

Marina has ordered the immediate grounding of the two sister vessels of oil tanker M/T Solar 1. Arnie Santiago, acting enforcement manager of Marina in Manila, identified the two sister vessels as Solar 2 and Solar 3. “We will not allow them to operate until the probe on the sinking is over,” he said during the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC) 6 meeting here.

The Board of Marine Inquiry, an agency under Marina, likewise recommended the filing of administrative charges against Aguro and the Sunshine Maritime Development Corporation, pending further investigations.

Repeating disasters

Meanwhile, despite the claims of the government and local RDCCs that the Philippines is a disaster-prepared country, disaster-preparedness has been the least of priorities of this government, commented environmentalist activist and mining engineer Efren Fabila.

Fabila said government particularly Coast Guard has not been serious in addressing the causes of countless disasters in the country. “That is why we keep on having disaster after another at the expense of our environment and people,” he said.

Fabila recounted the grounding of National Power Corporation (Napocor) Power Barge 106 off the coast of Semirara Island in Caluya, Antique, eight months ago, after suffering hours of battering from strong winds and waves. “It spilled more than 200,000 liters of bunker fuel, affecting hundreds of hectares of shoreline around Semirara and neighboring shores; and millions of pesos are being spent for the clean up and rehabilitation of the affected areas, unfortunately, the job remain unfinished today,” Fabila said.

He also blamed the Coast Guard and the local ports authority for not giving right information and precautions. “The tanker should not have been allowed to sail given the storms last week wrecking havoc throughout the country. They should have learned from the Semirara disaster and countless other disasters that had shaken our country in the past years like the Negros Navigation Dona Paz and M/V Cassandra,” he said.

Storms before disaster

Just a day before the oil tanker ship disaster, central Philippines had been battered by two successive storms, bringing untold flashfloods and wind battering, damaging agriculture, properties and lives worth tens of millions of pesos. Worse, people were caught flat-footed as the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) did not raise any storm signal over the Western Visayas.

As fast as the destructive storms that came and left, so was the sinking of the 998-ton locally registered M/T Solar 1 oil hauler, owned by Sunshine Maritime, an oil hauler for petroleum giant Petron Corporation, off Guimaras strait afternoon of Aug. 11.

The tanker left Limay town in Bataan on Aug. 9 en route to Sangali town in Zamboanga del Sur, southern Philippines. It was contracted by Petron to ship two million liters of bunker fuel to the Western Mindanao Power Corporation.

Damaged vessel

Region 6 Coast Guard investigations showed that early in the morning of Aug. 10, crew members had already noticed that the ship’s chain locker, the compartment that holds the anchor, had taken in water and the ship itself had begun to lean by about six degrees to the right. 

Despite this, Aguro gave the order to sail toward Iloilo. Then at around noon while traversing Iloilo strait toward open sea to Zamboanga, the ship leaned further to around 10 degrees. At around 4 p.m., Aguro made a right turn to Iloilo when the ship was already badly leaning right with its head down. He gave an order to abandon ship at 16.6 miles southwest of Lusaran Point in Nueva Valencia town, Guimaras island.  

Seventeen crew members including Aguro and two surveyors made it to the shore while two others, Victor Morados and Art Ian Nabua, failed to jump off to the sea. They remain missing.

Costly oil spill

As of press time, the ship’s sinking has already caused an oil spill contaminating 200 kilometers of the coastline of  Nueva Valencia, Sibunag and San Lorenzo towns. This has reportedly affected more than 20 sq. kms of coral reefs, 1,100 has. of the Taclong

national marine reserve in Nueva Valencia, at least 4,000 fishermen and 17,000 households in several coastal villages.

The oil slick also threatens more coastal villages of central Negros particularly those in Bago City and Pulupandan, Valladolid and San Enrique towns.

The mayors of Pulupandan and Valladolid have reported imminent threats to their shrimp industries. They are at risk of losing millions of pesos from the possible damage, they say.

Before this, Pulupandan Mayor Luis Mondia said that the shrimp industry in his town has already suffered about P50 million in losses caused by the bad weather and typhoons. It is likely to suffer more with the threat of oil spill contamination.

Similarly, Valladolid Mayor Ricardo Presbitero, Jr. also said that the shrimp industry in his municipality suffered millions of pesos in losses. “It would take us more than two years to rehabilitate the industry,” he said.

Negros prepares for oil spill spread

Gov. Joseph Marañon of Negros Occidental said he has already given advisories to the local government units (LGUs) most likely to be affected.

He also said that the coastguard was immediately mobilized to assess the situation. The Coast Guard with the help of Petron has created Oil Spill Combat Teams (OSCT) to prevent the oil spill from spreading.

Marañon said he will ask Petron for its counterpart in the cleaning program to be organized by the provincial government and the LGUs. The clean-up is estimated to cost about P2.2.

Meanwhile, lawyer Jose Ma. Valencia, provincial chief of staff and spokesperson of the Provincial Oil Spill Task Force, said they will likely sue Petron for the oil spill. Bulatlat



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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