Cordova to demand P85.1M compensation

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Sunday, August 10, 2014


A YEAR after two ships collided off Talisay City and spilled oil and bunker fuel that spread to the seas of Cordova, the town’s fishers said their fishing activities are back to normal.

However, a barangay official in one of the coastal villages of Cordova said the mangrove plantation, which the spill damaged, has yet to fully recover.

And on Tuesday, Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy is scheduled to file a complaint to ask the shipping companies for P85.1 million as compensation for the damage the oil spill caused in several barangays, where most people depend on fishing.

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Last year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Central Visayas reported that 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 spread for several days after the M/V St. Thomas Aquinas and M/V Sulpicio Express Siete collided last August 16, 2013 near the Lauis Ledge.

The collision killed more than 100 persons, while around 800 others survived. Parts of the Aquinas still remain underwater.

INTO THE SEA
CEBU.For a few months after two vessels collided off Talisay in August 2013, the oil spill that resulted forced some of Cordova’s fi shermen to fi nd other ways to support their families, while people stopped buying fi sh from the town. Now, they are getting back to their routine. (Sun.Star photo/Allan Cuizon)


William Casquejo, a fisherman from Barangay Buagsong in Cordova, said they are slowly recovering with the help of the municipal government, barangay officials and private groups.

“Sa una napugos gyod ko nga di na lang managat kay baho ug gasolina ang dagat ug ang akong mga kuha, labi na ang mga kinhason (Before, I had to stop fishing because the water smelled of fuel, and so did all the fish and shells I had caught),” Casquejo told Sun.Star Cebu.

Big change

The 27-year-old fisherman said that after fishing for around 15 years, it was the first time he was left with no choice but to stop depending on his catch.

“Sukad sa una nga bata pa ko mananagat naman gyod ko. Kato ra mi kasuway ug problema nga grabe gyod ang epekto sa dagat (I have been fishing since I was a child. What happened last year was the worst problem we’ve ever encountered),” he said.

Barangay Buagsong is also known for its bakasi or sea eels, and locals and foreign tourists alike used to visit the community just to taste it.

Right after the oil spill, however, Casquejo said, no one dared to eat bakasi, sea shells and other sea products from the barangay.

When he had to stop fishing, Casquejo enrolled in the cash-for-work program of the town government. He earned P50 and got two kilos of rice with two canned goods and noodles every day as his payment.

Today, Casquejo earns at least P300 from his daily catch.

For his part, 23-year-old Remar Tura said it took five months before his fishing activities returned to normal.

While majority of the residents in Cordova refused to eat sea products for some time after the oil spill, Tura said that his family stopped eating fish for only a month.

“Mga usa ka buwan nikaon ra man sad mi ug balik og isda kay ako isip mananagat kahibaw man ko nga limpyo ang mga isda (After a month, we resumed eating fish because as a fisherman, I know that the fish are clean),” he said.

Mangroves

But for Mayor Sitoy, the town’s fishers and fish vendors deserve a better deal.

Sitoy said that Cordova has not received any compensation from the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp. (PSACC), which operates Sulpicio Express Siete, and 2GO, which owns the Aquinas ferry.

He wants the shipping companies to pay P85.1 million.

Barangay Councilor Rodulfo Yburan Jr. of Day-as said about 80 percent of the mangroves has recovered. The rest died.

Barangay Day-as faces the area where the ships collided. Different private groups have helped the barangay by planting mangroves again.

The Cordova barangays affected by the oil spill included Day-as, Buagsong, Bang-bang, Catarman, Pobacion, Gabi, Alegria, Pilipog and San Miguel.

DENR plans to send a letter to the management of 2Go Transport Inc. to furnish it a copy of the environmental damage assessment report.

Otherwise, it will use its own computation.

Disclosure

Dr. Eddie Llamedo, DENR 7 information officer, said their agency has come up with a damage assessment of P41 million in relation to the oil spill.

Llamedo said that the 2Go management had requested DENR to hold their P41-million damage assessment because the shipping company will get an independent assessor.

Dr. Resurecion Sadaba of the University of the Philippines Visayas was hired by 2Go to conduct the assessment. But Sabada reportedly submitted its report only to 2Go and did not furnish a copy to DENR.

“We will write a letter to Francis Chua of 2Go demanding the disclosure of the report from the study conducted by Sadaba. We will state in the letter that if 2Go will not disclose Sadaba’s findings, we will use the DENR computation in the amount of P41 million in demanding for damage claims,” Llamedo said.

The computation was based on the cost of planting mangroves in Cordova and the value of fisheries that would have been produced by the mangroves.

DENR 7 allowed 2Go to hire an independent assessor because it recognized its efforts in cleaning up the oil spill and other mitigating activities. (RVC/With EOB)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 11, 2014.

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