Press Release
April 3, 2008


To curb the rapid deterioration of Philippine waters, a proposal for harsher penalties for unlawful dumping of waste materials in archipelagic waters and territorial seas is now pending before the Senate.

"Millions of tons of oil and waste quietly end up in our waters every year, a result of either accidental or occupational pollution. The immense growth in maritime transport of oil and the increasing amount of chemicals being carried in the sea definitely cause long-term harm to our waters and our marine ecosystem. We are losing billions of pesos to oil spills and marine pollution," said Senator Edgardo J. Angara, author of Senate Bill 885 Amending the Marine Pollution Decree of 1974.

The Marine Pollution Decree of 1974 originally imposes a fine of P5,000 to violators. Angara is pushing for the penalty of imprisonment of six months to six years and a fine of P6,000 up for individual persons. Corporations will be given a penalty of P1 million and their license shall be cancelled.

Further, any person in charge of a vessel that dumps refuse into Philippine waters, as well as the owner or operator who fails to notify the Coast Guard of any oil or oily mixture discharged from his vessel is liable to a fine of P1 million or imprisonment of not less than six months.

"The current penalty of a P5,000 fine or imprisonment of not more than one year is not at all parallel to the damage caused by pollution to our waters," Angara said.

In Manila Bay alone, bacterial count has shown to have increased over the past decade. This has rendered many beaches in its eastern part unfit for bathing and it's near shore waters unfit for fisheries and growing of shellfish. Sewage and industrial effluents from urban areas, tailings from mining activities, oil from shipping operations and agricultural run-off are the most common forms of pollution.

Angara stressed that it is a country's duty to protect and preserve the marine environment within and outside its jurisdiction and that government should undertake measures to prevent, reduce, and control pollution.

In 2005, Angara authored the Oil Pollution Liability and Compensation Act (OPA) which provides strict liability for oil pollution damage and ensures prompt and adequate compensation for persons who suffer such damage.

He also authored the Underwater Cultural Heritage Act of 2006 which seeks to preserve, conserve, enrich and protect the nation's historical and cultural heritage, including marine coasts and resources. The bill also entitles the National Museum the authoritative rule to issue permits or licenses before one can undergo exploration or excavation in Philippine waters

"Our country has one of the world's most abundant marine environment - a primary source of food, minerals, petroleum, hydrocarbon, energy - and yet we are doing little to protect it," he said.

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