Friday, October 13, 2006

The Oil Spill Tragedy: Two Months After

Posted October 12th, 2006 by Stella Arnaldo
Panay News, Oct. 12, 2006

IT has been two months after the biggest oil spill knocked off the feet of the people of Guimaras and nearby provinces. The problem remains as MT Solar 1 is still 3,000 feet below the sea and continues to spew bunker fuel.

It is quite early for Petron Corp., Sunshine Maritime Development Corp., and even for the Arroyo government to suffer dementia and make it appear that things are getting better each day in Guimaras.

Two months are too short for them to simply forget the extent of damage brought by the oil spill. Amidst attempt to cover up the issue, the fact remains that the affected people suffer the brunt of the tragedy.

Two months after, toxins remain present in the villages worst affected by oil spill. Urine and blood samples taken from the residents of Sitio Bagatnan, Panobolon, Nueva Valencia showed elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide when compared to tolerable limits. This is also evident in Brgy. San Isidro, Sibunag. Toxicologists test the drinking water of Brgy. Tando and found that aromatic hydrocarbons were present. Until now, potable water is not within the reach of the people of Brgy. Tando.

Two months after, livelihood for those who rely on fishing becomes more difficult. Before August 11, the fisherfolks used to earn at least P240 a day. Now, the fish are gone! Though the “cash for work” program of Petron has provided short-term remedy to the displaced fisherfolks, it has not sustained the need for livelihood of the people.

Workers are now gradually being laid off. No alternative livelihood is being put in place.

Others resort to charcoal making, but they know that to be in this work will further worsen the damage to the environment.

Two months after, we are still waiting for concrete, immediate, and appropriate assistance and rehabilitation programs for the affected people. And perhaps, we cannot afford to still wait until December for the siphoning off of the remaining bunker fuel to commence.

The oil spill tragedy in Guimaras is a good example of ningas cogon mentality of the national government, in collaboration with Petron and SMDC. While they are foot-dragging in their response, their own enthusiasm to be at their best to resolve the oil spill problem easily dies down. This is indeed lamentable!

Two months after the oil spill, the people of Guimaras, on the other hand, are getting empowered each day. Now they realized that these corporations are the actual culprits. They already felt the pain of being forgotten by the national government.

Eventually, Madiaas Ecological Movement believes, time will come when the people of Guimaras will unite and make their voices heard. And this is now a challenge for them – how they can be heard and attended to by the Arroyo government. The people are doing their part now.

*The writer is the Acting Secretary General of the Madiaas Ecological Movement – Panay.

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