Oil spill hits Sorsogon villages
BARCELONA, Sorsogon — An oil spill, said to have come from a cargo vessel battered by strong winds as Tropical Storm “Salome” was crossing the Bicol region last week, had spread to at least 10 villages here, officials said.
Mayor Manuel Fortes Jr. said he would meet with members of the Barcelona town council to discuss the possible charges that the local government would file against the owner of MV Kitty.
Fortes said the spill was first seen by residents of Barangay Tagdon on Saturday afternoon.
“We will file a formal complaint against the shipping [firm]. The oil spill did not happen by accident; it was done intentionally,” Fortes said.
He said while the local government had yet to determine the volume of oil discharged by the vessel, he was worried that the spill would damage the town’s 186-hectare marine reserve and fish sanctuary that was established in July 2001.
The reserve has a core area of 42 ha and a buffer zone of 64.08 ha.
Local officials said traces of oil had also been noted in the town’s mangrove forest.
Jeangle Eco, Fortes’ executive assistant, said the owner of the cargo vessel would face several environmental complaints because it also hit a reef when it was pushed by strong winds toward the town’s shoreline when Salome hit on Thursday.
“The cargo ship was forced to pump out oil from the engine room [to reduce its] weight,” Eco said.
He said the ship, which came from Palawan province and was on its way to Legazpi City, was pulled out of the reef area with the aid of two vessels.
But ship captain Prodencio Rodavia said the spill did not come from the fuel tank of MV Kitty.
He also denied that the ship ran aground and hit the town’s coral reefs.
“My chief engineer told me that the oil spill … came from a pail of used [engine] oil that was accidentally spilled on the deck or kubyerta of the ship due to strong and big waves,” Rodavia said.
“I think, the shipping company is willing to pay damages, in accordance with the law,” he said.
Joyce Anne Licup-Gerona, Barcelona tourism officer, said the smell of oil had become “unbearable,” especially if the wind was blowing toward residential communities.
Sorsogon Gov. Robert Lee Rodrigueza ordered the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to start cleaning Barcelona’s shoreline.
Tony Deligero, Barcelona disaster risk reduction and management officer, said government personnel and residents collected 214 sacks of oil-contaminated seagrass from the affected villages.
“Based on my assessment from the quality of oil that surfaced, it was used engine oil. It had a mixture of crude oil with a trace of rust,” Deligero said.
Philippine Coast Guard personnel, he said, had collected oil samples for testing.
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