By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — An organization upholding the welfare of the country’s fisherfolk is taking oil company Chevron Philippines Inc. to task for an oil spill that has affected the livelihood of fishermen in Sitio Tawi-tawi, San Fernando City in La Union province. The group is also demanding that local government officials, as well the Department of Environment and Natural Resources take action on the oil spill.
The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) is asking La Union Gov. Manuel Ortega to demand for compensatory damages from Chevron because of an oil spill. The group is pressing the official to go after the company after thousands of liters of oil leaked from the depot’s pipelines on Tuesday, February 21. Marine Tanker (M/T) Panglao Island docked at Pier 1 of Poro Point, was reportedly discharging automotive diesel oil (ADO) when a pipe sprung a leak.
The official has already ordered a probe into the incident. In the meantime, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) has initiated legal action against Chevron and has called on local courts to issue a cease and desist order against the operators of oil depot at Poro Point. The EMB’s regional director Joel Salvador has told the media that the leak happened as the ship MV Panglao was discharging oil into CPI’s pipelines. Two other companies share the depot, Shell and Petron.
The oil spill incident in La Union was actually the second in a month. Early on February 14, the Bohol Coastal Resource Management Task Force (BCRMTF) called on the Bohol Provincial Capitol to issue a reward of P50,000 for anyone who will give information to the authorities as to who or what is to blame for the oil spill in the Danajon Double Barrier Reef. Some 600 liters of used oil was discovered to have been dumped in the reef, and the spill spread to some 1.450 kilometers.
Compensation for the fisherfolk
Pamalakaya chairman Fernando Hicap welcomed the move made both by Ortega and the EMB, but insisted they should do more and address the effects of the oil spill on the residents. He said many impoverished fisherfolk and other villagers make a livelihood from fishing, and they were all negatively effected by the oil spill.
“It’s good that officials are aware that the oil spill might cause long-term effects on the environment, but they should also consider the effect on the people who live in San Fernando. We ask Gov. Ortega and other officials of La Union province to turn over whatever funds Chevron Phil. will release as compensation for the damage wrought by its oil spill to the small fishing communities. They ‘re the ones who are most affected by this,” he said.
Hicap said Ortega and EMB officials should charge officials of Chevron Philippines and make them accountable for the oil spill.
In the meantime, Chevron has already issued statement in an attempt to clear its name. It argued that the spill occurred as the depot’s common receiving line sprung a leak while it was receiving diesel.
The EMB stressed that the oil spill incident violated the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 (Republic Act No. 8749) and ordered Chevron to cease and desist from operating the depot until a cleanup is completed and the pipelines are repaired.
Pamalakaya said there is a possibility that MV Panglao might have discharged a significant volume of the 530,000 liters of oil given the wide area covered by the oil leak as shown in national TV.
Children falling ill
BomboRadyo.com reported that children who swam in the waters contaminated by the oil spill have begun to get sick. Parents and children alike have been trying to salvage CPI’s spilled oil. One of the children who has fallen ill, BomboRadyo.com said, is the granddaughter of a barangay tanod or a member of the village watch Elesio Dunca. Dunca said his granddaughter began coughing and throwing up almost immediately after getting out of the water.
Three other children have been monitored to have fallen ill. In the meantime, adults are complaining of various skin rashes after exposure to the water.
Oil spills poison the water, kill Life
According to environmentalist groups, the impact of oil spills on the environment and the ecosystem cannot be exaggerated.
Based on a report on Green Living Tips.com, a single gallon of oil can create an oil slick up to a couple of acres in size. When oil mixes with water, the composition changes and becomes something environmentalists call “mousse.” The mousse is very sticky and clings to whatever it comes into contact with. Many marine animals including fish may be attracted to it and eat it.
Direct contact with oil spill can cause birds to get hypothermia as oil breaks down the insulating capabilities of their feathers. The oil also makes the feathers heavy, compromising the birds’ flying ability. Many fall into the water and die.
When ingested, oil is automatically a poison. Birds, fish, shellfish are in immediate danger as the oil damages their airways, compromises their immune systems and destroys their breeding/ shelter/feeding areas.
Even after the oil spill has been cleared, not all of the oil immediately disappears. It moves below the surface of the water and down into the seabed, affecting marine organisms that burrow, such as crabs.