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Oil spill compensation seen eclipsing P1.1-b 2006 record

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Compensation claims as a result of the massive oil spill from the MT Princess Empress could surpass those filed in the aftermath of the environmental disaster in the Guimaras Strait in 2006, when the MT Solar sank with its cargo of 2 million liters of bunker fuel, a lawmaker said Sunday.

“If we look back at the MT Solar incident, a total of P1.1 billion was paid to settle 26,872 compensation claims, including those filed by owners of beach resorts, tour boat operators, and other tourism service providers hit by the 2006 oil spill,” said Quezon City Rep. Marvin Rillo, vice chairman of the House tourism committee.

The Guimaras disaster was widely considered the country’s worst oil spill in history.

But considering that the MT Solar episode happened 17 years ago, Rillo said the inflation-adjusted compensation claims with respect to the pollution damage caused by the MT Princess Empress may well exceed P1.1 billion.

“Apart from tourism-related claimants, we expect property owners hit by the oil spill to file compensation claims for damages to beachfront properties, fishing boats, and fishing gear,” Rillo said.

“Those who suffered economic losses, including fisherfolk, seaweed farmers, and fishpond operators, are likewise expected to file claims,” Rillo said.

Meanwhile, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Tingog party-list Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez and Social Welfare and Development Secretary RexGatchalian distributed cash assistance of P3,000 to 600 oil spill victims in Oriental Mindoro.

The Speaker’s office also gave the province’s first congressional district, led by Rep. Arnan Panaligan, a P500,000 calamity fund. The P3,000 cash aid came from the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (see related story on A4 – Editors)

Local governments that had to pay their staff extra in response to the oil spill are also expected to file claims, along with clean-up contractors and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Rillo said.

Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor and an insurance representative earlier announced the launch of a “Claims Caravan” in Calapan City that will serve as a claims-collecting point for those harmed by the MT Princess Empress’s oil spill.

As of March 23, the Oriental Mindoro provincial government had recorded 20,932 fishermen, 61 tourism establishments and 750 community-based organizations that are expected to file claims.

The entire province of Oriental Mindoro is now under a state of calamity because of the oil spill, which has also hit coastal areas in Batangas, Antique and Palawan.

The MT Princess Empress sank off Naujan, Mindoro Oriental on Feb. 28, while carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel oil on the way to Iloilo from Bataan, the PCG said.

Meanwhile, Defense Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the US Coast Guard and some of its air assets will arrive in the Philippines to help in the ongoing clean-up operations.

In a report to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Galvez said they were expecting the arrival of the entire

“We are looking forward to the arrival of the entire US Coast Guardcontingent for the additional technical support in our disaster response operations,” Galvez said in a report to President FerdinandMarcos Jr. “Although, one US C-17 with equipment (60K loader) alreadyarrived this morning and is now at Subic Air Base, another C-5 is expected to arrive tomorrow,” Galvez said.

Galvez, who is also chair of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Undersecretary Ariel Nepomuceno and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) chief Admiral Artemio Abu and other Armed Forces and local government officials, conducted an aerial inspection of the affected areas of theoil spill early Sunday morning.

Galvez said the presence of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has greatly helped in the clean-up operations by providing rapid environmental assessments of the affected areas, identification of priority areas at risk of environmental damage, and assessment of the needs for ecosystem restoration.

The DND senior official also reported that the Japanese remotelyoperated vessel (ROV) which found the sunken MT Princess Empress said the tanker had suffered extensive structural damage after sinking.

He said at this point, it was unclear how much oil remained in the tanker and at what rate it was leaking out.

Galvez said the situation in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon,Palawan) and Western Visayas was “a lot better” than he had imagined and that this was “encouraging.”

“Our response efforts, particularly the actions of the various government agencies, are present and very effective with the collaboration of all stakeholders, not to mention the assistance of our allies and other partner countries,” Galvez said.

To date, the Marcos administration and non-government organizationshave already extended more than P95 million worth of assistance to the residents in the areas affected by the oil spill.

A total of 10,206 liters of oil waste and oily water, and 72,643 kilosof oil-contaminated debris were collected in the shoreline clean-up operations, Galvez said.

In other developments:

• An environmental science professor at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, Hernando Bacosa, said the government needs to invest in technology and response drills to minimize the impact of another environmental disaster like the MindoroOriental oil spill. He told a forum that the country should invest in getting its own ROVs and organize “as a strong force” to respond to oil spills.

• The PCG said Saturday it has so far collected 8,163 liters of oily water mixture in its ongoing offshore oil spill cleanup in Oriental Mindoro. For its shoreline cleanup, the PCG said it collected 154 sacks of oil-contaminated materials on Saturday. Since March 1, the agency has gathered 3,155 sacks and 22 drums of waste in 13 affected barangays in Naujan, Bulalacao, and Pola, Oriental Mindoro, the agency added. On March 10, Environment Secretary Antonia Loyzaga said the sunken tanker MT Princess was discharging about 35,000 to 50,000 liters of oil per day. She said the UP-Marine Science Institute projected that the oil leak would continue until the end of March.


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