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ESTANCIA OIL SPILL

Iloilo folk still seeking compensation, rehab 4 years after ‘Yolanda’

The massive oil spill triggered by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in the coastal town of Estancia, Iloilo province, in 2013 forced residents to leave their homes. —NESTOR P. BURGOS JR.

ILOILO CITY—While celebrating her family’s survival during the onslaught of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) four years ago, Dionisia Buenaflor found herself still marching in the streets of Estancia town in Iloilo province to seek justice from the government.

“It has been four years but we are still seeking compensation and adequate rehabilitation,” Buenaflor told the Inquirer.

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She joined about 300 survivors of the tragedy in a protest rally on Wednesday to mark the fourth anniversary of the disaster. The protesters lighted candles and offered flowers at the coastline of Botongon village.

Buenaflor is among the more than 3,000 complainants in two class suits against government agencies, including the National Power Corp. (Napocor) and Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (Psalm), and Kuan Yu Global Technologies Inc. (KYGTI), a private contractor, in relation to a massive oil spill that hit the town’s coastal communities as Yolanda swept across the Visayas.

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The complainants, assisted by members of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers on Panay Island, were demanding at least P225 million in damages and compensation for the loss of their livelihood.

Strong winds and huge waves brought about by the supertyphoon on Nov. 8, 2013, detached the Napocor-operated Power Barge 103 from its moorings and slammed the coastline, spilling at least 900,000 liters of bunker fuel.

The 32-megawatt barge, which was then under Psalm management as it was waiting to be privatized, was dragged for 200 meters and hit the rocky shores of Botongon.

Two persons died and more than 2,000 residents were evacuated following the incident. They stayed for a month in a temporary shelter due to the high level of air toxicity in the area.

The survivors sued the government agencies for allegedly failing to undertake measures that could have prevented the oil spill. KYGTI, which was contracted for the cleanup, was also sued for the delay in cleaning the spill and for alleged irregularities.

Psalm earlier released at least P6.7 million as compensation to affected residents. The compensation ranged from P3,000 to P20,000 per family, representing payment for damages and dislocation.

But Buenaflor said the compensation was not enough and was “unfairly” distributed.

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“Many of those affected did not receive anything. The amount was also not enough to cover the losses in our livelihood,” she said.

She said their income was severely affected during the oil spill. Her husband Rodolfo, who drives a tricycle, was unable to transport fish due to the contaminated waters.

In their class suit pending in the Barotac Viejo, Iloilo Regional Trial Court, the survivors accused the agencies of negligence for failing to undertake measures that could have prevented the oil spill and for what they called as “inefficient” cleanup operations.

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TAGS: Dionisia Buenaflor, Iloilo province, Supertyphoon Yolanda
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