Spill adds to suffering of Iloilo folk
ESTANCIA, Iloilo—Hundreds of residents continue to suffer from the pungent odor of bunker fuel a week after a power barge slammed into the coast of Estancia town, Iloilo province, spilling about 200,000 liters of oil.
Health officials have warned of hazards due to the continued inhalation of and exposure to bunker fuel and have recommended the evacuation of affected residents in Barangay (village) Botongon in Estancia, about 110 kilometers northeast of Iloilo City.
But the siphoning of the remaining oil from the National Power Corp. (Napocor) Power Barge 103 and the cleanup of the coast have been delayed due to finger-pointing on who is responsible for the barge.
Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. said the barge was recently sold by the Napocor to Salcon Power Corp. but the barge was not turned over to the new owner.
They are finger-pointing, Defensor said.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, a native of Iloilo who attended a briefing on relief operations in Iloilo on Friday, called Napocor president Ma. Gladys Cruz-Sta. Rita and asked the Napocor to take responsibility in addressing the oil spill at the moment and settle the other issues later.
Strong winds and huge waves dislodged the barge from its moorings, 200 meters from the shoreline, and slammed the 32-megawatt barge into Botongon.
The oil sheen from the spill has reportedly reached the neighboring town of Batad, according to provincial administrator Raul Banias.
Commodore Athelo Ybañez, Western Visayas Coast Guard commander, said the oil sheen had spread 5 km from the barge, affecting parts of six coastal barangays in the neighboring town of Batad.
Coast Guard oil spill response personnel have started collecting oil using skimmers and via manual scooping. Residents have also been tapped in a cash-for-work program for the cleanup.
Cleanup teams have collected 27 tons of contaminated debris and 13,000 liters of bunker fuel as of Friday.
Dr. Marilyn Convocar, Department of Health regional director, recommended the mandatory evacuation of 30 families (about 150 persons) that were closest to the oil spill site and faced the greatest health risks.
Convocar said residents should be moved 50 to 100 meters away from the site. The most vulnerable were children, the elderly, nursing mothers and those with ailments.
She also recommended the wearing of protective gear for those involved in the cleanup.
The provincial government has sent masks to affected residents.
In an earlier interview, Estancia Mayor Rene Cordero said it would be difficult to evacuate the oil spill-affected residents because evacuation centers were destroyed by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”
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