Iloilo City gov’t may forego raps vs power barge operator if it continues helping residents affected by leaked fuel
ILOILO CITY –– The Iloilo City government may no longer proceed with the filing of cases against the operator of a damaged power barge that leaked bunker fuel if it continues to address the needs of those affected.
“They are taking care of the evacuees very well. I am satisfied. We are ready to forego the cases if all the needs of the people are met,” said Mayor Jerry Treñas.
At least 308 families in Iloilo City, who were evacuated due to an oil spill last July 3, have returned to their homes a week after they were transferred to three hotels here.
Treñas said the Ayala-owned AC Energy Philippines, which operates Power Barge 102, has also offered to help repair schools and roads in the affected communities aside from compensation to residents.
The residents were first brought to evacuation centers after the oil spill affected their homes. They were eventually transferred to hotels by AC Energy Philippines after Treñas raised complaints on the poor conditions of evacuation centers and the difficulty in observing physical distancing amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The evacuees returned to the villages of Mansaya, Barrio Obrero, and Loboc after their communities were deemed safe from contamination and fumes from bunker fuel.
Gabino Ramon Mejia, head of plant operations of AC Energy Philippines, said the cleanup of the affected areas is being undertaken based on the Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique, an internationally accepted method in assessing shoreline conditions and cleanup activities in oil spills.
The Philippine Coast Guard in Iloilo reported that 261,207.464 liters of bunker fuel have been recovered out of the estimated 268,948.61 liters that leaked from the power barge as of 8 a.m. of July 16.
Aside from three villages in Iloilo City, the oil spill also affected the towns of Dumangas and Leganes in Iloilo and Guimaras Island.
The PCG earlier filed a criminal complaint against AC Energy Philippines and its officers for contaminating communities and mangrove areas in Iloilo and Guimaras Island.
Treñas said the financial compensation for affected Iloilo residents, who were dislocated from their communities, would be discussed with the barge operator.
He said what is important is that “what is due is given to all affected.”
Mejia, in an earlier interview, said they were willing to provide financial compensation to the affected residents subjected to rules and protocols of the city government.
He said AC Energy Philippines would also implement a rehabilitation project in mangrove areas in the city, including those contaminated by bunker fuel.
Power Barge 102 leaked bunker fuel following an explosion that tore holes on its hull on July 3.
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