Ayala unit, govt to probe Iloilo oil spill

AC Energy, the power arm of Ayala Corp., said it is tapping a third-party company to assist in its investigation into the oil spill incident in Iloilo City.

“As of this time, we are conducting an investigation of the incident and a reputable third-party firm will be engaged to conduct a thorough investigation as to the root cause of the explosion that ignited the fuel gases inside the sealed tank, in order to avoid similar situations from happening in the future,” the company said over the weekend.

The company reported that an explosion damaged its Power Barge 102 (PB102) which carried about 40,000 liters of bunker fuel. This led to an oil spill around 3:00 p.m. last Friday.

The company said it immediately undertook containment procedure that involved the use of multilayered spill booms from PB 102, and additional layers from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Petron.

Skimming operations have been carried out. It has tapped Shell Philippines for additional oil skimmer equipment.

AC Energy said the incident affected 63 households that have been displaced from their homes due to fumes carried to the area by winds. They were immediately evacuated to the nearby elementary school.

“We have also established a team to closely coordinate with the Barangay for the needs assessment of the affected people so we can provide the needed support.

We would like to thank the PCG, Iloilo Mayor Jerry Treñas, the officials of the local government of Iloilo, and our host community who are helping us in the containment efforts. We are committed to exerting all means to clean up the oil spill as soon as possible and support the affected communities,” said AC Energy.

Measures

As AC Energy steps up to contain the oil spill, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said it will also conduct its own investigation into the incident.  DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units (LGUs) Concerns Benny Antiporda told reporters that a Notice of Violation based on Republic Act 9275, or the Clean Water Act, will be issued to AC Energy. After that, he said a technical conference will be called to address the oil spill focusing on the clean-up operations.

Antiporda, the deputy spokesman of DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said if warranted, a case will be endorsed to the Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB) for the computation of fines against the company.

He clarified that AC Energy, not the National Power Corp., is the owner of the barge and was “very cooperative.”  “They joined us during the meeting with the PCG on July 4. They are conducting clean-up operations at present and they are being supervised by the PCG,” he said.

For now, he said the priority is to contain the oil spill.

The Power Barge is located at Zone 3, Barangay Obrero, in Lapuz, Iloilo City.  While no casualties were reported, a big number of families living in coastal communities nearby were quickly evacuated, according to Barangay Obrero Barangay Chairman Ricardo Diño Jr.

“Clean-up must be conducted following the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan and clean-up operations shall be supervised by the PCG. The Regional Incident Management Team is created to monitor all aspects of the clean-up from the affected community, health impacts, environmental impacts, and waste management,” he said.

According to Antiporda, the clean-up of heavy bunker fuel in mangroves is needed to allow wave action to disperse the oil and collect them from the sea. “Sorbents and manual clean-up is recommended but must be strictly monitored so as not to disturb the mangroves in the area which may cause more harm than good. [The] use of dispersant in the mangroves should not be recommended due to adverse effects to the mangroves,” he said.

Lenie Lectura, Jonathan L. Mayuga

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