Press Release
August 23, 2006

Joint Senate-House panel to probe Guimaras oil spill next week:
Cayetano calls on Malacañang : release funds for
oil spill to avert "largest marine disaster"

"Maglabas ng pera!"

Senator Pia S. Cayetano has called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to immediately release the millions of funds needed to contain and clean up the massive oil spill off Guimaras Island and provide relief to thousands of residents in affected coastline villages in the province and nearby areas.

"Twelve days have already passed since the incident, but we haven't seen any action or commitment from the Executive to release funds that could finance efforts to mitigate further damage from the sunken Solar I tankerwhich environmentalists and Malacañang itself have acknowledged as a ticking ecological time bomb," she stressed.

"While private entities are considered to be among those principally responsible for the disaster, we cannot just sit and wait around for them to produce the funds and for foreign help to come by, while valuable marine life and the livelihoods of people are being destroyed," she added, saying that the money badly needed by the Philippine Coast Guard can be temporarily sourced from the P700-million Presidential Calamity Fund and the Presidential Social Fund.

She said high priority should be devoted to the immediate recovery of the estimated 1.7 million liters of industrial oil still within the hold of the sunken tanker, especially in light of the Coast Guard's revelation yesterday that the tanker has sprung a new leak.

"We are racing against time and so there should be no let up in efforts to recover the remaining oil from Solar 1," she said, warning of "the largest marine disaster" should the rest of the oil escape from ill-fated vessel.

The Joint Oversight Committee on the Clean Water Act is set to investigate on August 28, Monday, the oil spill which has been regarded as the biggest in the country's history.

The joint inquiry will be led by Cayetano, chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee and co-chair of the oversight body, along with Manila Rep. Miles Roces, her counterpart in the House of Representatives.

In preparation for the hearing, the senator will go on an aerial inspection and conduct an ocular visit of marine areas and coastal communities ravaged by the oil slick in Guimaras on Friday, August 25. She will also consult with provincial governor JC Rahman Nava, Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas, officers of the Philippine Coast Guard, as well as local government officials and community leaders for an update on cleanup and relief efforts.

Cayetano said the hearing to be held in the Senate will clarify the facts and circumstances surrounding the oil spill and find out what measures can still be done to mitigate damage from MT Solar I.

"The inputs in this hearing will be used in the finalization of the committee report that would consolidate several bills on anti-marine pollution and the creation of an oil spill liability fund, and a separate report that lays down the implementing legislation in compliance with the country's obligations to the 1992 International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation on Oil Pollution Damage," she explained.

She said that among the main provisions of the committee's draft report on the proposed "Ship Pollution Prevention Act of 2006" is the creation of an Oil Spill Liability and Marine Management Fund, which would be used to clean up and pay claims for natural resources damage caused by oil spills from water vessels.

The proposed fund will be constituted from contributions imposed on owners and operators of tankers and bargers hauling oil and other petroleum products in Philippine waterways and coast wise shipping routes, she added.

Among those invited to Monday's hearing are Guimaras Gov. Nava, Petron Chair Nicasio Alcantara, Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. President Clemente Cancio, PCG Commandant Vice Admiral Arthur Gosingan, DENR Sec. Angelo Reyes, Greenpeace Campaign Coordinator Von Hernandez and Pamalakaya National Chair Fernando Hicap and other stakeholders.

Cayetano, who also led a joint probe of the oil spill off Semirara Island in Antique last February, lamented the lack of preparedness and the limited capability of government agencies in dealing with major oil spills.

"Apparently, no additional safety measures have been implemented by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) after the Semirara oil spill disaster happened eight months ago," she pointed out.

News Latest News Feed