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Guimaras oil spill recovery goes on

/ 11:18 PM August 13, 2011

JORDAN, Guimaras—Guimaras Island has continued its recovery five years after a massive oil spill devastated it but its marine resources continue to be affected by contamination, scientists said on Thursday.

In a forum marking the fifth anniversary of the Aug. 11, 2006, oil spill, marine scientists from the University of the Philippines System said studies and monitoring results have shown the recovery of most of the island’s marine ecosystem.

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However, mangroves, shellfishes and other organisms continue to be affected.

“We cannot yet say that there has been a full recovery five years after the oil spill. But there are encouraging signs of recovery and growth,” said  Lemnuel Aragones, associate professor of the UP Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology and head of the Guimaras Post-Oil Spill Monitoring Program.

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More studies

Guimaras Gov. Felipe Nava said the province had planned further studies especially on the effects on human health of the consumption of shellfish and other marine animals contaminated by the oil spill.

Many areas on the island were contaminated with bunker oil after the MT Solar 1, chartered by Petron Corp., sank in stormy seas southeast of Guimaras and spilled more than 2.1 million liters of bunker fuel  which the vessel was transporting from Bataan to Zamboanga.

The oil spill contaminated the island’s rich and diverse ecology and was considered the country’s worst marine disaster.

Rex Sadaba, coordinator of the UP Visayas Oil Spill Response Program, said studies conducted at the Taklong Island National Marine Reserve in Nueva Valencia town showed the general recovery and growth of mangroves in areas that were heavily contaminated by bunker fuel.

Sadaba said young mangroves have continued to grow.

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Trees turning white

The symptoms of albinism previously observed in trees contaminated by the oil spill have disappeared this year.

But Sadaba said in some patches, mangroves of some species had shown continued stress attributed to the oil spill. These were shown in the decrease of the size of leaves by half and stunted growth in some trees.

The scientists said continued inspection and studies were necessary to determine whether changes in growth and reproduction of the marine resources are due to the oil spill or are part of normal cyclical behavior.

“Five years is still a short period for monitoring,” Sadaba said.

Nava said even as the island continues to recover, a growing concern is the proliferation of illegal fishing, especially the illegal collection of sea cucumber.

The governor disclosed that the province had apprehended motorboats and their crew who had been raking sea beds to collect sea cucumbers.

Destroying the sea bed

Scientists said the raking could seriously damage the marine ecosystem especially organisms on the sea bed.

The militant fishermen’s group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas  on Thursday called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to disclose the status of marine resources in Guimaras Strait five years after the oil spill.

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TAGS: disaster, environment, Guimaras Island, Guimaras oil spill, marine ecosystem
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