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House to summon Marina execs over oil pollution fund

/ 07:02 AM December 21, 2013

House of Representatives. AP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) has not collected a single centavo for the oil pollution compensation fund (OPCF) approved by Congress six years ago largely because shipping companies have balked at the cost.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said they would summon Marina officials to explain in a hearing why they failed to comply with the provisions of Republic Act No. 9483 or the Oil Pollution Compensation Act to set up an OPCF from the contribution of shipping owners whose oil tankers traverse the country’s waters.

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“I’m disappointed why the Marina has not done its duty to collect the seed money for the oil fund. I believe it should have done more to establish the fund especially since there have been more oil spills since the Guimaras disaster (2006),” Rodriguez said in a phone interview.

Rodriguez was the main author of the oil compensation act which provided that ship owners bankroll a fund to cover their liabilities in case of a pollution damage caused by a leak in their oil shipments.

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No IRR after 7 years

Colmenares said that based on the account of Commodore Joel Garcia, head of the Philippine Coast Guard Marine Environmental Protection Command who testified during Monday’s congressional hearing on the massive oil spill which blanketed Estancia town in Iloilo province, the oil fund did not materialize because the Marina has yet to come up with the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the fund seven years after it was passed into law.

Under RA 9483, which is part of the country’s commitment to the 1992 Civil Liability Convention and International Oil Pollution Fund Convention, all oil tankers are required to chip in 10 centavos per liter of their oil cargo (minimum of 150,000 tons of annual oil shipments) as seed money to an oil pollution fund.

But the Marina and oil shippers could not agree on the minimum and maximum value of contributions and how long they would contribute to the fund.

Too high

Garcia claimed that after oil shipping firms complained that the proposed contribution of 10 centavos per liter was too high, the Marina did not do anything to comply with the law.

“The Marina should have haggled with the shipping firms even for a lesser amount to ensure that there would be a fund that could be used for the cleanup and compensation of victims of oil spills.  If the Marina had collected from the oil shipping firms as it was supposed to in 2007, the oil spill fund could be worth billions in pesos at present,” said Colmenares.

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Colmenares said the absence of the oil spill fund was one of the reasons the victims of the Guimaras oil spill, which triggered legislation to protect the country’s coastline from oil spill  damage, have not been compensated up to now. “Our citizens and natural resources should not be kept at the mercy of private interests,” said Colmenares.

“We will call for a congressional investigation to hold Marina and these oil shipping firms to account for violating the law and losing billions of pesos which could have been used for the cleanup of Guimaras, Estancia and other areas with destructive oil spills,” said Colmenares.

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TAGS: Marina, Maritime Industry Authority, Neri Colmenares, oil pollution, oil pollution compensation fund, OPCF, Rufus Rodriguez
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