Guimaras oil spill victims demand justice

THE militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) today asked President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje to compel the oil company Petron Corporation to pay the 133,000 victims of Guimaras oil spill a total of P 20-billion in total compensation for the damage caused by the environmental disaster on Aug.11, 2006 when MT Solar 1 commissioned by Petron to transfer bunker fuel from Bataan to Zamboanga figured in sea accident that led to spilling of 2.1 million liters of oil off the waters of Guimaras Strait.

Aside from the P 20-billion compensation economic package, the group is also urging the DENR to compel Petron to set aside another P 20-billion for the rehabilitation of Guimaras for ten years or about P2 billion per year.

Speaking before a mass action staged by the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) to commemorate the fourth year anniversary of the worst oil spill in the country, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said owners of the largest oil company in the country, which is blamed for the catastrophe, have yet to fulfill their promise to fund the rehabilitation of the marine environment and the livelihood of over 100,000 people in Guimaras and nearby Iloilo, Aklan and Negros Occidental provinces.

“Until now, there is no justice to the victims of the Guimaras oil spill tragedy. Sad to say President Aquino and his environmental chief are Petron’s current best friends. They will follow and adopt the same decaying policy of forgive and forget with Petron at the expense of the environment and the coastal people of Guimaras and Panay islands. This explains why Aquino and Paje are not keen to pick up a politically correct engagement with this oil giant,” said Hicap, also the chairperson of the activist environmental alliance Kalikasan-PNE.

The Pamalakaya leader recalled that the same demand was aired by their chapters in Panay and Guimaras islands and victims of the oil spill a week after the oil spill. But Hicap lamented their demand for relief and rehabilitation was ignored by DENR and Petron.

He said they even wrote the London-based International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPCF) in which Petron was insured, but the oil pollution group merely provided a measly sum of money for the cleanup and even absolved Petron of its duties and obligations to rebuild the damage environment and livelihood of fishing people in Guimaras and Panay islands. – Billy Javier Reyes, Gerry Albert Corpuz and Sugar Hicap

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