Oil spill victims seek compensation

ILOILO CITY, Iloilo - Seven years after the island province of Guimaras was hit by what is regarded as the worst oil spill in the country, uncompensated victims are appealing for help from President Benigno S. Aquino III in their efforts to be compensated for the damages they suffered.

Mayor Emmanuel Galila of Nueva Valencia town said a petition letter has been drawn, asking the President for help in securing compensatory damages for nearly 1,000 uncompensated victims.
To recall, oil tanker M/T Solar 1 sank off the southern coast of Guimaras on August 11, 2006, spilling, in the process over two million liters of Petron bunker fuel into Guimaras Strait

Galila noted that not all victims who have claimed damages from the International Oil Pollution Compensation Funds (IOPC Funds), a London-based international organization that identifies and compensates economic losses of oil spill victims, have received compensation for their losses.

As of October 2012, IOPC Funds released P987 million as compensatory damages to 26,870 claimants.

However, Galila said that nearly 1,000 victims, mostly fisher folks from Nueva Valencia, have received no compensation from the IOPC.

During rites commemorating the seventh year since the Guimaras oil spill occurred last Sunday, uncompensated victims expressed in streamers hung at the town plaza about how they felt, mostly about government's seeming neglect of their interests.

They also expressed disappointment over the "slowness" of the justice system, especially with regards the civil cases which have been filed against Petron Corp. and Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. (SMDC), owner of the ill-fated oil tanker.

Galila noted that the two civil cases, wherein the nearly 1,000 uncompensated victims are asking Petron and SMDC to pay a total of P291 million for economic losses and cleaning up of oil debris, are still in the pre-trial stage.

The uncompensated victims said they tried to avail compensation from IOPC Funds, but the local claims office has closed since last year.

Galila stressed that the petition letter to be sent to the President is imperative. In the letter, a proactive approach is urged the national government to help the uncompensated victims avail of what has long been overdue them.

The oil spill in waters surrounding Guimaras in 2006 destroyed marine life and fishing grounds in all five towns of the island province with Nueva Valencia town the worst hit.

The incident also affected coastal towns in northern Iloilo province as well as the southern part of neighboring Negros Occidental province.