P6-M fine eyed for oil spill damages-A A +A
Thursday, August 22, 2013
CEBU -- A fine of P6.5 million may be slapped on the shipping company that is found liable for an oil spill that reached five cities in Cebu, said a government official.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Visayas reported 328 hectares of mangroves were severely damaged in 12 barangays in Cordova and Lapu-Lapu City.
It estimated the damage at P20,000 for every hectare.
Bunker fuel and oil continued to spread five days after the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas and M/V Sulpicio Express Siete collided near Talisay City last Friday, Aug. 16.
But how will DENR decide which company should pay for the damage or absorb the cost of rehabilitation?
It will “be dependent on the final results of the fact-finding investigation by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Maritime Industry Authority,” said DENR Regional Executive Director Dr. Isabelo R. Montejo, in a statement.
“We will wait for the conclusion of the probe undertaken by these agencies so that we can send a formal notice demanding or imposing such amount for immediate release, to cover the costs of rehabilitation, replanting and other related activities,” he said.
Montejo said an agreement will be executed among local governments, people’s organization, DENR, and the shipping company to draft a plan for rehabilitation.
Mangroves that were less than a meter high died because of suffocation or lack of carbon dioxide. There was also too much heat from the mangroves’ contact with the oil slick.
Montejo said it would take between three and four months for the effects of the oil spill to be neutralized and for the marine environment to stabilize.
Government officials have focused on containing the oil that has spread to the cities of Talisay, Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, and Cordova town.
A team of experts from the University of the Philippines (UP)-Visayas campus in Iloilo is expected to arrive today, Aug. 22, to help in the clean-up operations and monitoring of marine species affected by the oil spill.
Nygiel Armada, EcoFish project officer-in-charge, said the team is composed of 12 scientists but only two members will do the initial assessment.
They are marine specialist Dr. Resurreccion Sadaba and chemist Dr. Ida Pahila, who both worked on the response and clean-up operations of the Guimaras oil spill in 2006.
Sadaba was the head of the oil spill response project of UP-Visayas in Iloilo. Pahlia is expected to conduct water quality tests for aquaculture.
“We want to know if it (the oil spill) will have a big impact (on the marine environment). Our concern is also the Danajon Reef, which is part of our project,” said Armada.
Another concern is the status of the fishers in the affected areas who lost their source of income.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) lined up three forms of assistance for the subsistence fishermen in Cordova and Lapu-Lapu City.
BFAR Assistant Regional Director Allan Poquita said 105,000 mangrove propagules are being prepared by the agency.
The agency is ready to give beneficiaries one peso per mangrove propagule that they will prepare for planting to replenish the lost trees in the oil spill-affected areas.
An additional three pesos will be given for each propagule planted and after one year, each propagule that survives will yield another peso for the beneficiary.
Three liters of gasoline will be given to fishermen with boats for three straight days, to help them catch fish beyond their usual fishing grounds.
Poquita said they will give women an opportunity to augment their income with a package of one kilo of fish balls, one kilo of squid and cooking oil.
The inventory or assessment report stated that 328 hectares of mangroves in Cordova and Lapu-Lapu were destroyed. These had been planted by nine people’s organizations.
The seven-member quick response team behind the report was led by Coastal and Marine Management Division Chief Edmondo Arregadas of the Protected Area, Wildlife and Coastal Zone and Management Services.
Montejo said these plantations were established from 2009 to 2012 and are part of DENR’s integrated coastal resource management project. This project received funding from the Asian Development Bank and the Global Environment Facility for mangrove rehabilitation and reforestation.
The team assessed nine barangays in Cordova severely hit by the oil spill, namely, Bangbang, Buagsong, Day-as, Catarman, Poblacion, Alegria, Gabi, Pilipog, and San Miguel.
Calawisan, Babag and Suba-Basbas, all in Lapu-Lapu City, were also affected.
The DENR will also compute the economic valuation to include protection cost, opportunity lost, tourism and heritage value and provisioning value of the ecosystem such as food, medicine and others.
This, as the Cebu City Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (LDRRMC) reported that the oil spill has already reached Tongo Island, which is near the city.
The management of 2GO ferry, though, is trying to stop the oil from further leaking from the sunken vessel, by plugging one of the two holes where the oil is coming from.
In a command conference at City Hall on Wednesday, Director Isabelo Montejo described the oil spill as “grave and tremendous.”
Montejo said they planted the mangroves covering 200 hectares in the coastal barangays of Cordova town some time in 2010 until early this year. This has cost them P4 million.
Now that it has been damaged, Montejo said DENR is planning a massive replanting of mangroves.
However, Montejo wants 2GO and the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp., the owner of the cargo vessel, to shoulder the expenses.
He said the oil has clung to the mangroves from roots to leaves. “Kailangan gyud tang mananom ug balik ug dapat mo-abaga sila (We need to plant again and they should pay for part of the bill, he said.
Asked about this, 2Go’s assistant vice president for shipping management, Lito Salvio, said the matter will have to be discussed by their company.
In a separate status report, Harold Alcontin of LDRMMC said the oil spill has already reached Tongo Island which is just 1.72 kilometers away from the South Road Properties.
Councilor Dave Tumulak said he learned from the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration that the currents may change as Habagat weakens.
But Bantay Dagat chief Ranulfo Sebusa said oil sheen is already seen in the coastal area of Barangay Inayawan.
Aside from this, several resorts in Mactan Island has already been affected by the oil spill such as the Plantation Bay, Crimson Resort and Spa, Bee Resorts, and Movenpick Resort and Spa.
To address this, they have gathered their spare mattresses and discarded linens and placed them several meters away from the shore to absorb and block the oil.
Salvio said, though, that 2Go together with Malayan Towage and Salvage Corp. and Nippon Salvage is already doing its part to halt the oil leak.
As of Wednesday morning, they plugged one of the two holes that are the source of the leaking.
“This is a happy development,” Salvio said.
Capt. Daniel Sarmiento of Malayan Towerage said they will try to plug the second hole Thursday.
Once the plugging will be finished, Salvio said they will syphon the remaining oil and salvage the vessel by cutting it into pieces.
2GO has already tapped a team of Japanese salvage experts for the operation.
Asked as to when they will be able to contain the oil, Sarmiento said they can do it in two weeks’ time based on their first dive assessment Wednesday.
For Sarmiento, he said there is nothing to be alarmed with the oil spill, as the design is minimal as just on top of the water. (With Princess D. Felicitas/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 22, 2013.