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Compensation for areas, folk affected by oil spill pressed

March 19, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 231 views

SURIGAO del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel on Sunday said coastal communities adversely affected by the massive oil spill from the sunken MT Princess Empress are entitled to compensation from the tanker’s owner as AGRI Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee called for the allocation of more funds for booms and other equipment for oil spill containment.

“The law imposes strict liability for pollution damage resulting from spills of persistent oil from tankers, and ensures compensation for those who suffer economic losses or incur costs due to the toxic discharges,” Pimentel said.

“We expect the oil tanker’s owner to be swamped with compensation claims from individuals and entities harmed by the spill, including those forced to conduct their own cleanup activities,” Pimentel, House ecology committee member, said.

Lee said his proposal will avoid the dire consequences of maritime disasters in the future.

“The disaster caused by the MT Princess Empress oil spill has exposed how ill-equipped we are in responding to threats to our aquatic resources due to oil spills. Kaya’t hihingin po natin na magbigay ng mas malaking pondo para sa oil spill containment equipment sa susunod na budget hearing,” said Lee.

Lee said the Philippines cannot always rely on the help of others, and should work towards having the necessary equipment to deal with such disasters.

“Mas mabilis tayong makakapag-responde sa ganitong sakuna kung mayroon tayong sapat na kagamitan. Dahil sa kakulangan natin, patuloy na nasisira ang mahalagang likas-yaman, at nawawalan ng kabuhayan ang mga kababayan nating nakaasa rito, lalo na ang mga mangingisda,” Lee added.

Lee also reiterated his call for immediate aid to be given to communities affected by the oil spill.

The Office of Civil Defense said recently that over 108,000 people in 118 barangays in Oriental Mindoro and Palawan have now been affected by the oil spill.

Nearly 32,000 families in 68 areas in MIMAROPA and Western Visayas have also been affected as of March 14, according to the OCD.

Under the Oil Pollution Compensation Law of 2007, or Republic Act No. 9483, Pimentel said owners of tankers that cause oil pollution damage are legally responsible for:

· Costs incurred in cleanup operations at sea or on shore, including expenses for preventive measures;

· Consequential loss or loss of earnings suffered by owners or users of property contaminated or damaged;

· Pure economic loss or loss of earnings sustained by people, even if the property contaminated or damaged does not belong to them;

· Damage to human health or loss of life; and

· Environmental damages and measures of restoration.

The Philippine Coast Guard has admitted it does not have enough equipment to handle the oil spill caused by MT Princess Empress, whichsank on February 28 while carrying 800,000 liters of industrial fuel oil.

The sunken vessel has been releasing 35,000 to 50,000 liters of oil per day, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The Japanese government, which has sent an eight-man team to help the Philippine government’s task force, has also committed to providing equipment, such as oil blotters, oil snares, and oil-proof working gloves, to aid the clean-up of affected coastal barangays.

The United States and South Korea are also committed to help the country.

The ill-fated oil tanker was sailing to Iloilo from Bataan when it experienced engine trouble and sank.

At least 10 municipalities in Oriental Mindoro and Antique are now under a state of calamity due to the spill that has affected more than 143,000 people, including 14,000 fisherfolk, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Dozens of people have also fallen ill due to oil toxicity with at least 55 kilometers of a shoreline already spoiled by the spill.