Friday, 25 February 2011

Guimaras oil spill

The Guimaras oil spill is a massive oil spill at the Guimaras Strait, the Philippines. It is dubbed as the worst oil spill ever in the Philippines.[1]




The oil tanker M/T Solar 1, carrying more than two million liters of bunker fuel, sank on August 11, 2006 at the Guimaras Strait off the coast of the Guimaras and Negros Occidental provinces, causing some 500,000 liters of oil to pour into the strait. Siphoning the remaining 1.5 million liters from the sunken tanker, at a depth of more than 600 meters, was scheduled for MARCH 2007
It has been said and said about the recent oil spill which has now adversely affected marine sanctuaries and mangrove reserves in three out of five municipalities in Guimaras Island and reached the shores of Iloilo and Negros Occidental. The oil spill occurred in the Visayas Sea which is considered a rich fishing ground that supplies most of the fisheries demand for the entire country. (NDCC, August 2006)
Haribon sent its two biologists to Guimaras to rapidly assess the damage and talk to the affected communities regarding their immediate needs. Definitely Haribon will be providing assistance to the area particularly for the long-term rehabilitation of the area. Finally, the government has evacuated the affected families who have already been exposed to the toxic elements of the crude oil. According to reports gathered in the field, people have already contracted skin diseases.


Several causes has been mentioned, including bad weather and human error.
Allegations have been made stating that the tanker only had a capacity of 1.2 million, implying the possibility of overloading. Other investigations have claimed that the captain of the ship has no capacity to manage it.


The spill has damaged Taklong Island National Marine Reserve, a marine sanctuary for feeding and breeding ground for fish and other species. [2]
Dr. Jose Ingles, eco-region coordinator of the World Wide Fund for Nature in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, said that the damage may be felt by at least two generations. He warned that the disaster may have damaged the reefs and mangroves, scarring the ecosystem and causing seafood yields to significantly decrease. According to him, the worst hit would be the shorelines, the coasts and the swamplands with mangroves. This will greatly impact the livelihood of the fishermen, mostly living in poor conditions. [3]
The oil slick also poses as a threat to the blue crab industry of Enrique B. Magalona, Negros Occidental.[4]
In the south-southeast of the spill site is located the Sulu Sea, a deep water area frequented by commercially valued fishes. The towns of southern Negros Occidental province prides themselves as the home of the Blue Marlin and the Yellow Fin Tuna. This is an important source of income for the communities. When the slick is not effectively contained, this will surely damage this thriving local industry.
As of August 22, the Philippine Coast Guard says that the spill has affected 20 communities in 4 municipalities in Guimaras as of August 22, 2006. It also threatens 27 communities in Iloilo province and 17 others in Negros Occidental.[5]
A villager from Barangay Lapaz, Nueva Valencia, Guimaras became the first casualty directly affected by the spill. He died after inhaling the fumes of the oil sludge causing him to contract cardio-respiratory disease.[5] Two workers from the ship has also been reported missing.


Due to the extent of the disaster, the cleanup is expected to reach three years. [2]

[edit]Local Response

On August 19, the Philippine government has asked the governments of IndonesiaJapan and the United States to help assist with the cleanup. [6]
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo created Task Force Guimaras on August 22 in order to oversee both the cleanup of the oil spill and the retrieval of the 1.5 million liters or so of tanker fuel oil still remaining inside the tanker. The government has also ordered the creation of the Special Board of Marine Inquiry to determine who and what caused of the spill .[1]
Guimaras Governor JC Rahman Nava has objected to the proposal of disposing the oil wastes within the province.[5]
Clemente Cancio, president of Sunshine Maritime Development Corporation (SMDC), the company which owns M/T Solar I, said that their foreign insurer is willing to pay the cost of damage brought about by the oil spill.[5]
Antigua and Barbuda a suffering for oil lost because of the tragic accident they had 5 years ago.
President Gloria Arroyo vowed a full investigation into the country's worst ever oil spill that has devastated marine ecosystems in the central Philippines. Arroyo also ordered the justice department to join a special task force heading an investigation and clean up on the island of Guimaras, where some 300 kilometers (180 miles) of coastline, including stretches of pristine beaches, have been affected by the oil slick from the sunken Solar 1 tanker. "We shall do everything in our power to right the wrongs caused by this unfortunate incident," Arroyo said after visiting the island, adding that she was deeply pained by the disaster that she has declared a "national calamity". [7]

[edit]International Response

On August 17, British oil experts,sent by SMDC's foreign insurer, arrive in Guimaras to help assess the situation. SMDC states that the experts will check the extent of the oil pollution. The Britons conducted an aerial survey over Guimaras Island and will come up with the recommendations based on their findings. [8] [9]
A four-man team from the U.S. Guard has arrived on August 23 to help in determining the exact location of the tanker.[5]