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We, representatives of communities, civil society organizations, academe and government agencies, all attendees of the Mine Waste Landform Management and Closure Workshop, held in Quezon City on February 24 to 26,
Tuesday, May 13, 2014 - 17:10

Six months after Supertyphoon Yolanda struck the Philippines, cases of illnesses and casualties are reported from the tragic oil spill in the Municipality Estancia in Iloilo. An estimate of 893,000 L of oil was spilled from National Power Corporation’s Power Barge 103 that ran aground during the height of the typhoon. The oil spill wreaked serious damages on the coastal ecosystems and on the lives of families residing in five barangays of Estancia, Iloilo.

The deaths of more than three persons were attributed to the oil spill disaster. Based on the results of the fact-finding mission led by Bayan Panay on January 31, 2014 in Barangay Botongon, at least two workers of the oil spill cleanup team died from illnesses due to exposure to toxic fumes. While in a separate consultation organized by the National Union of People’s Lawyers, it was reported that a cleanup worker died after complaining of severe headache and according to witnesses, minutes upon his death his eyes were already bulging and his skin immediately shrivelled. Another resident died from severe asthma attack. Five residents of Barangay Botongon were reported to experience severe headache, recurring fever and abdominal pain. The principal of the Botongon Elementary School needed to undergo hemodialysis because her condition was aggravated by the incident.

The severity of the impacts of the oil spill demands a careful and complete rehabilitation of the affected sites. But it was reported during the 2nd Congressional Hearing of the Energy Commission that Kuan Yu Global Technology is not wholly disposing the retrieved oil and debris. The company is merely collecting it and transferring it to Ajuy, Iloilo. This does not follow proper cleanup process, as advised by the US Environmental Protection Agency, wherein all waste materials should be collected and disposed properly. The incapacity of Kuan Yu to properly dispose the toxic oil might further imperil communities and puts the company’s handling of the cleanup operation into question.

The Kuan Yu was hired by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) for an P87-million contract to siphon the remaining oil and cleanup the spilled oil in Estancia.

Due to the hazy response from responsible agencies and parties, the effectivity in addressing oil spill incidents of the country’s 2008 National Oil Spill Contingency Plan and the Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique (SCAT) must be reviewed.Learning of from the lessons of Guimaras oil spill, the government should conduct a thorough review of NAPOCOR’s Facility Response Plan and its adequacy in responding to emergency situations. The Republic Act No. 9483 or the Oil Pollution Compensation Act of 2007, which is an implementation of the 1992 International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage and the 1992 International Convention of the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, is the legal instrument pertaining to oil spill, yet, it is only limited to compensation of the oil spill victims.

There is an extreme urgency in conducting a comprehensive environmental impact assessment of the oil spill in relation to the continuous deterioration of the health condition of the residents of Barangay Botongon. Various illnesses experienced by the community members are indicatory that there is a persistent pollution that is already causing harm to people and there is no other source of the pollution except the spilled bunker oil. Moreover, provision of safe relocation areas should be guaranteed to them while the oil spill site rehabilitation is ongoing.

* This position paper was crafted by Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines and AGHAM Advocates of Science and Technology for the People. This was submitted to the House of Representatives during a Congressional Committee on Energy hearing on May 12, 2014.