The Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources will issue a notice of violation of the Philippine Clean Water Act to the company operating the power barge that exploded and spilt oil off the coast of Iloilo City on Friday.
Undersecretary of Environment Benny Antiporda on Sunday said a technical conference would be called to look into the clean-up of the oil spill, which had spread to an area estimated to be as wide as 1,200sqm as of Saturday evening.
He said the matter would then be endorsed to the Pollution Adjudication Board of the Environmental Management Bureau for computation of fines against Ayala-owned AC Energy Corp, which operates Power Barge 102 docked at Barangay Barrio Obrero in Iloilo City’s Lapuz district.
An explosion from Barge 102 on Friday afternoon tore a 30cm hole on the hull of the barge, spilling an estimated 251,000 litres of fuel by Saturday morning.
Nobody was injured, but by Sunday morning, about 400 residents were evacuated amid the spreading smoke from the bunker fuel, according to the Iloilo City Risk Reduction Management Office.
Some 179,300 litres of bunker fuel was collected from the water’s surface on Sunday, according to a report by the Coast Guard station in Iloilo.
Joe Luviz Mercurio, Coast Guard station commander in Iloilo, said the clean-up would take at least two weeks. In a statement on Saturday, AC Energy said it immediately undertook containment procedures, but “high ocean waves” caused some of the oil to spill beyond its area.
With the help of the Coast Guard, the company began operations to recover spilt oil from the water’s surface.
“We will assist so that the affected families are taken care of,” said Gabino Ramon Mejia, head of the company’s plant operations.
Mejia said the company was willing to provide compensation for the evacuated residents. AC Energy also said it had provided water, food, folding beds, blankets and pillows to them.
Coast Guard spokesperson Commodore Armand Balilo said a team had been formed “to gather information and evidence and file a case if there is a basis”.
The oil spill is the worst environmental calamity since 2006 when 2.1 million litres of bunker fuel was spilt in the waters of Guimaras after a tanker sank in stormy seas southeast of the island-province.
The oil spill devastated the livelihood of Guimaras residents dependent on fishing and shell-gathering. It is considered the country’s worst marine disaster after it destroyed hundreds of hectares of mangroves, seagrass, corals, coastline, coral reefs, seaweeds and fishponds.
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK