Oil spill worries Cebu fishers, triggers probe-A A +A
Monday, August 19, 2013
OIL that spilled from a passenger ferry that sank Friday night has reached Cordova and Lapu-Lapu City, threatening the livelihoods of fishers’ families.
The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Central Visayas created a four-member team to gather water samples and investigate the spill.
Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy said he asked the municipal council to place coastal barangays under a state of calamity today, August 19.
Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza convened on Sunday a crisis management committee to address the threat and met with representatives of resorts to hear their concerns.
Initial reports indicated that an estimated 120,000 liters of bunker oil were inside the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas, which sank last Friday night after it collided with the Sulpicio Express Siete cargo vessel.
The collision occurred near Lawis Ledge.
In the meantime, EMB-Central Visayas Director William Cunado urged hotels and other establishments along the coast in Lapu-Lapu City and Cordova to take some mitigating measures, such as installing spill booms to contain the spread of the oil.
The EMB team collected water samples from various sites: Ledesma Island, about 300 meters from the accident area; Isla Ruping, about 500 meters away; and Tongo Island, about one kilometer away.
A band of oil about three kilometers long and three meters wide has surfaced in the waters off Cordova and Lapu-Lapu, said Central Visayas District Commodore William Melad of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).
Rough seas prevented the authorities from installing an oil spill boom around the collision site.
Instead, the Coast Guard sprayed chemicals into the sea to disperse the oil, Melad said. These are supposed to break up the slick into droplets that will dissolve more easily.
“We are preventing it from reaching sensitive areas,” Melad said.
He said the PCG deployed a helicopter Sunday morning to conduct an aerial survey to look into the extent of the damage.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama expressed concern on the oil spill after he inspected the site on Sunday.
“This is already a huge spread. This should be a real concern,” he said.
Philippine Coast Guard Cebu Station Commander Weniel Azcuna said that 2GO has tapped Malayan Towage to help contain the oil spill.
Rama ordered the City Health Department headed by Dr. Stella Ygoña to coordinate with the Department of Health for the possible issuance of warnings to the public against eating fish.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)-Central Visayas Assistant Regional Director Allan Poquita said the agency is still assessing the damage.
He said about 5,000 hectares of mangroves have been reached by the oil spill.
Mayor Sitoy said the oil spill has affected the livelihood of residents in Barangays Gabi, Alegria, Poblacion, Buagsong, Day-as, Catarman, San Miguel, Bangbang and Pilipog.
Sitoy, in a phone interview, said about 3,000 hectares of Cordova’s seawater were covered by oil on Sunday.
“We hope to extend financial assistance to the affected residents through our calamity funds,” he said, adding that 10 percent of the population of the coastal barangays depends on fishing for income.
Crismel Inoc, 33, a resident of Day-as, Cordova, said she and her husband do not know how to provide for their daily needs now that they have to stop fishing because of the oil spill.
“The mayor has ordered to stop fishing activities. And even if we go fishing, nobody will buy fish from us for safety reasons,” Inoc said in Cebuano.
They went fishing last Saturday night and managed to sell their catch Sunday morning. Inoc and her husband had their fishing boat rented on Sunday by an inspection team from Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
Inoc said she and her husband witnessed the sinking of M/V St. Thomas Aquinas last Friday night.
She said their boat shook and they heard a loud explosion when the two vessels collided about three kilometers away. They heard screams and cries.
They wanted to help rescue the passengers but they were afraid their boat might run aground on their way to the crash site.
Leonido Sumagang, 54, is unfazed by the oil spill. He gathered bakasi, an eel-like fish, in the shores of Day-as Sunday afternoon.
Sumagang, who supplies bakasi to a restaurant, said he will catch bakasi for their household consumption because nobody wants to buy fish caught in the sea near the sunken vessel.
His wife, Laurencia, 59, said she hopes the local government will extend aid to fishermen as they have no other means of income.
“Wa pa mi kabalo unsay buhaton namo (We still don’t know what to do),” she said.
Sitoy said he is coordinating with the Cebu Provincial Government and the Coast Guard for the cleanup.
Mayor Radaza of Lapu-Lapu City supervised the laying of an improvised oil sheen sweeper along the city’s coast. The oil sheen sweeper, made of recycled plastic materials like sacks and plastic bottles, is two kilometers long.
She said the City has given resort representatives tips how to contain oil sheen on their beaches.
“I asked them to do their share in protecting their property,” she said, adding she leaves it to the resorts to decide whether to close their beaches because of the oil sheen.
She also urged residents in coastal barangays to inform officials if they notice any oil spill.
Rhett Villacruz, front office manager of Crimson Resort and Spa, said they have advised their guests not to swim in the beach, for safety reasons.
“So far we’re good. We see nothing to be alarmed about. The guests are happy,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.
Andy Berame, coordinator of the Lapu-Lapu City Coastal Law Enforcement Task Force, said they taught resorts how to make an improvised oil sheen sweeper.
Roderico Tagaan, head of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, said only patches of oil sheen were seen along the city’s coast.
He said the City has not issued any advisory against fishing. (EOB/RSB/DSM/PDF/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 19, 2013.