Cebu sea mishap's retrieval operations continue-A A +A
Sunday, September 1, 2013
CEBU -- The search and retrieval operations for the missing passengers of the sunken M/V St. Thomas Aquinas continue for two weeks and one day after the passenger ship collided with cargo vessel M/V Sulpicio Express Siete on August 16.
As of 4:45 p.m. Saturday, the death toll of the sea mishap climbed to 103, while the number of missing persons is 34, said Provincial Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) head Neil Sanchez.
Diving operations temporarily stopped around 10 a.m. Satuday while divers refilled their oxygen tanks and received a debriefing, a standard procedure required by the Department of Health for personnel exposed to emotional situations like retrieving bodies.
The five bodies recovered on Saturday were taken to the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory receiving section inside the Talisay City Fish Port for documentation, as part of the identification process.
Dr. Resurreccion Sadaba, program manager of the Oil Spill Response Center of the University of the Philippines (UP) Visayas, said fuel inside the St. Thomas Aquinas should be siphoned before an assessment of the impact of oil spill can begin.
Waiting for equipment
Efforts to assess the damage will be useless if the threat of more oil spilling from the shipwreck remains, he said.
“As of this time, I don’t recommend assessment because the source of pollution is still there. The priority should be to remove the oil from the vessel,” he said.
Angelito Salvio, vice president of 2Go Group Inc., said the equipment that will siphon the remaining oil will arrive from Japan on Sept. 6.
Once the equipment arrives, the Malayan salvage firm hired by 2Go will remove the oil within a month, Salvio said.
During a forum organized by 2Go and the local government of Cordova, fishermen said they can hardly meet their daily needs even with the assistance provided by different government agencies.
Teodulo Jumao-as, a fisherman and chair of the Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council, asked 2Go to give cash assistance to affected residents.
“Kuwang ra ang mga tabang nga among nadawat sa mga ahensya sa gobyerno (The assistance we’ve received from government agencies are not enough),” Jumao-as said during a press conference.
Fishing and collecting seashells in Cordova have been stopped because of the oil spill caused by the August 16 sea tragedy off the coast of Talisay City.
Salvio said the company will coordinate with the local government for their assistance to residents.
Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy said he will meet with the fishermen tomorrow to hear their concerns and plan ways to help them.
During the forum, Sadaba said the oil spill in Cordova is less alarming than the one that happened in Guimaras in 2006 and reiterated his advice against cleanup in the mangrove areas.
The oil spill in Guimaras involved about two million liters of fuel oil compared to only 160,000 liters reportedly carried by St. Thomas Aquinas when it sank after colliding with cargo vessel Sulpicio Express Siete. Sadaba said it took a year to clean the mess in Guimaras.
“Too many people working in the mangrove area will cause more damage than good,” he told reporters.
Sadaba said mangroves should be left to recover by themselves, adding that excessive foot traffic in the mangroves areas will cause the oil to penetrate deeper into the soil.
He also cautioned that dispersants can only be used 24 to 72 hours after the oil spill.
Sadaba said the oil spill affected about five species of mangroves in Cordova.
He said a baseline data on the mangroves, sea grass and coral is important to find out the changes caused by oil spill.
Watch Dr. Rex Sadaba's presentation
Sadaba commended the local government units affected by the oil spill, saying their responses to the problem have been “generally systematic.”
In Cebu City, some 100 fisherfolks from coastal barangays will receive aid from the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), both in Central Visayas.
Bantay Dagat Chief Ranulfo Sebusa said Dole will provide them with livelihood assistance, while the DSWD will distribute rice.
The assistance should help the fishermen in their daily needs after losing their livelihood, because of the oil spill, Sebusa said.
“Even though the oil spill didn’t reach Cebu City, our fishermen catch their fish in affected areas,” he said.
Based on his office’s list, Sebusa said, there are 500 fisherfolks in Cebu City but only 100 will benefit from the assistance.
“The 100 make their living from fishing all year round. The rest are seasonal fishermen,” he said.
Sebusa said Bantay Dagat has already submitted the names of the 100 fisherfolks to Councilor Gerardo Carillo who is the chairperson of the council’s committee on social services.
The councilor’s office will submit the list to Dole-Central Visayas and DSWD-Central Visayas.
Sebusa said Bantay Dagat needed an additional two trucks of coconut husks and 256 jute sacks for the oil spill booms that will be placed along the coastal barangays.
He said the present supply is only enough for the 100-meter oil spill boom that will be placed in Barangays Duljo Fatima and Mambaling.
Last Friday, Bantay Dagat and the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council installed two layers of oil spill boom in the boundary of Talisay City and Cebu City.
“We need additional oil spill booms in case the oil spill reaches Cebu City’s coastal barangays and the first layer can’t stop it. At least there will be a second line of defense,” he said.
Sebusa is asking the public to donate coconut husks and jute sacks. (Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 02, 2013.