Signs of recovery from oil spill seen in Cordova-A A +A
Saturday, September 7, 2013
GOV. Hilario Davide III reported some improvements in the effort to cope with an oil spill in Cordova, three weeks after a passenger ferry and a cargo ship collided off Talisay’s coast, killing more than 100 persons.
Dr. Franck Laruelle, an oil spill expert hired by 2Go Shipping, advised local governments to keep off the mangroves and let natural forces, like the changing tides, break down the oil stain on the mangroves and on the water’s surface.
“Natural life has gone back,” he said, in reporting improvements in Cordova’s conditions.
A presentation by 2Go assistant vice president Angelito Salvio showed little crabs and a white heron in the mangroves, a confirmation that the oil spill has not wiped out marine life.
For its part, the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Regional Crime Laboratory will send next week some DNA samples to Camp Crame, in the hope of identifying the bodies retrieved from the wreck of the m/v St. Thomas Aquinas.
Forensic experts have processed 111 bodies so far, and at least 63 have been released to their families.
Investigations on the collision between the Aquinas and Sulpicio Express Siete are ongoing. The latter vessel is operated by the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp.
The Special Board of Marine Inquiry (SBMI) is finalizing its report after their two-week hearing wrapped up early this week.
Central Visayas District Commodore William Melad of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said the report will be submitted on Monday to the national headquarters.
It will be reviewed by PCG Commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena, before being sent to Department of Transportation and Communication Secretary Jun Abaya.
Meanwhile, Salvio of 2Go said clean-up efforts will continue, although the activities are now closer to “normal” than in the early days when these were on crisis mode.
Governor Davide met yesterday with representatives of various agencies involved in addressing the oil spill.
With him were Major General Roy Deveraturda of the Central Command, Commodore Melad of the PCG, Dr. Expedito Medalla of the Health Emergency Management Staff, the PNP Crime Laboratory and shipping company officials Salvio and Sulpicio’s Grant Go.
Laruelle, during the meeting, again warned that letting people into the mangrove area to try to clean up the oil spill might cause more damage, as they could trample on the roots.
“Leave it to nature and it will work very well,” he said.
“It will take a bit longer but it’s the best way,” Laruelle told Sun.Star Cebu in an interview after the meeting.
Laruelle is a technical team manager in addressing oil spills and works for the International Tanker Owners’ Pollution Federation.
Salvio’s presentation showed updates about the six Cordova barangays that felt the oil spill’s effects the most.
He reported that in Day-as and Bangbang, the water is already clear and booms on the coastlines have absorbed the oil slick.
In Catarman, traces of oil remain in the mangroves, but overall, the water and shore conditions are good.
Some fishermen, including those in the Tonggo area, have returned to their normal trade, but eating shellfish in affected areas is still discouraged.
“But we are still working with Mayor Adelino Sitoy in the clean-up and cash-for-work (program) for every affected community,” said Salvio.
For some families of those who died in the Aug. 16 accident, the wait for normalcy is expected to take longer.
Chief Insp. Benjamin Lara, medico-legal officer, said they will prioritize the identification of 48 bodies; DNA samples will be sent to their head office, along with specimens from the family members of those who are still missing.
Only DNA testing remains as the way to identify these bodies now.
“We want to level the expectations of the families. We don’t want them to expect (the results at) a certain time that we can’t deliver,” Lara said.
“This will be a very long waiting period,” he added.
Some families of those who died in the 2008 sinking of another vessel, the m/v Princess of the Stars, are still waiting for their loved ones to be identified, he said.
Lara said the authorities are making arrangements with Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes on Junquera St., Cebu City to bury the bodies temporarily in one place.
“They will be properly marked so that their families can retrieve them once they’re identified,” he said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 07, 2013.