THOSE who have been to Guimaras swear by its beauty.

Photo taken by Rep. JR Nereus Acosta“It is absolutely breathtaking,” says Rep. JR Nereus Acosta of the island-province in Western Visayas, whose coast was where a tanker — carrying two million liters of low-grade bunker oil — sank on August 11.

On the oil spill’s path were more than 200 kilometers of lush coastline, 1,128 hectares of mangrove swamps, conservation areas, fishing grounds, endangered fauna species, and pristine coral reefs. Thousands of fisherfolk have lost their livelihood.

An environmental catastrophe has come to Guimaras, threatening its environment and people. Rep. Acosta, who had just visited the island, says the sight of the 20-kilometer-long oil slick is “saddening.”

But, two weeks after the Petron-chartered tanker went down, it is not the sight of the spilt oil that is most frightening. “It is what one does not see that is most tragic,” says Dr. Perry Ong, a wildlife biologist and director of the Institute of Biology at the University of the Philippines.

Acosta and Ong were speakers at a forum Monday morning on the Guimaras disaster. (Click here for more of Rep. Acosta’s photographs of the island and the oil spill; and here for Dr. Ong’s presentation.)

Smothering; toxic effects

Ong says the oil slick serves as a physical barrier, depriving the marine ecosystem of the sun needed for photosynthesis, and in the process, causing life to smother. Ong has conducted research about oil pollution, obtaining valuable data from the International Tankers Oil Pollution Federation.

Photo taken by Rep. JR Nereus AcostaThose at highest risk of contamination, Ong says, are the animals and plants that could come into contact with a contaminated sea surface: “The fish can swim away (from the slick); but in most danger are the marine mammals and reptiles, the birds that feed by diving or form flocks on the sea, and the marine life on the shorelines.”

For example, marine mammals and reptiles, such as turtles, are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects from oil contamination because of their need to surface to breathe and to leave the water to breed.

But the physical contamination and smothering is not all there is, Ong explains; the oil spill also threatens to cause toxic effects.

Ong says that most toxic components in oil tend to be those lost rapidly through evaporation when oil is spilled. As a result, lethal concentrations of toxic components that may cause large-scale deaths among marine life, “are relatively rare, localised and short-lived.”

Still, he says, prolonged exposure to a concentration of oil, or oil components, may cause “sub-lethal effects” that may still harm the ability of individual marine organisms to function normally, reproduce, or grow.

Oil spills research

Ong admits that it will be difficult to assess the particular effects of an oil spill, as the ability of flora and fauna to withstand such contamination is highly varied. But because all life is interconnected, he emphasizes, the impact of oil spills is always for the long-term.

“That is why we need to do the science of oil spills,” he says, stressing that the country is not lacking in the technical expertise to conduct extensive research.

He ticks off some of the key questions: “How will the currents affect the contamination? What about the changes in wind direction?”

Such scientific inquiries naturally take a long time, and should be started immediately.

In 1989, for example, Ong says, the Exxon Valdez hit a reef off the Alaskan coast, splitting its side open and releasing gallons of crude oil into the sea.

It took scientists all of 12 years to complete a comprehensive study of the spill and its impact.

Rep. Acosta echoes Dr. Ong’s call for scientific research on Guimaras. He laments, “Our Coast Guard is not even equipped with the proper sonar to be able to detect the exact site of the sunken tanker.”

Research is necessary so that the impact of such oil spills can be fully understood, and their harmful effects, mitigated.

“The environment is the only social security of the poor,” Acosta says. “If the environment is destroyed, their lives are destroyed too.”

Acosta called for amendments to existing legislation, “so that we can more easily pin down corporate liability.” He stressed that the general principle still is, “the polluter pays: “That is environmental justice.”


The Population, Health, and Environment Network, which organized today’s forum, lists its recommended measures:

  • Immediately lift the sunken oil tanker off Guimaras’ waters;
  • Provide adequate medical attention and health education to the affected communities;
  • Allow the participation of civil society in the inter-agency investigation to determine accountable parties and accelerate the prosecution process;
  • Make the private sectors involved liable for short- and long-term damages on people’s well-being and diversity. Petron’s private rights to partake in production and trade, should not impede on the collective rights to development and individual rights to health and livelihood. Initially, we must monitor Petron’s commitments to give long-term assistance to Guimaras as a matter of moral, social and legal responsibility;
  • Establish a system for monitoring and valuation of the short- and long-term impacts on environment, individuals, and communities.

The environment department has said Petron and the owner of the chartered tanker, MT Solar I, could be slapped with millions of pesos in penalties over the spill.

Petron, for its part, has said it “will take responsibility in addressing the containment and recovery of the oil spill both on land and sea, and more importantly, map out the long-term rehabilitation of the island of Guimaras and other affected areas.”

12 Responses to 8/11: The day disaster struck Guimaras



August 28th, 2006 at 9:44 pm

“That is why we need to do the science of oil spills,” he says, stressing that the country is not lacking in the technical expertise to conduct extensive research.

He ticks off some of the key questions: “How will the currents affect the contamination? What about the changes in wind direction?”

Such scientific inquiries naturally take a long time, and should be started immediately

– Sus Ginoo! Kung kailan naman nasa harap niyo na ang problema saka nyo lang pag-aaralan. Pumunta na lang kayo ng library or just download this brochure from US EPA,



August 29th, 2006 at 9:21 am

… and here we have Petron, promising rehab and compensation but REFUSING to take responsibility for the spill:

‘Oil spill damage too much to bear’, (Google cache)

“We are tapping nearly 800 people from 11 barangays under a cash-for-work scheme to begin clean-up operations. We will likewise equip them with proper tools for the shoreline clean-up,” Petron public affairs manager Virginia Ruivivar said.

She said that while technically, the liability for the oil spill rests with the ship owner, “which is why he is covered by insurance for an event like this. However, we in Petron feel a moral responsibility to extend every assistance that we can to the province of Guimaras. We are committed to stay and help in the province as long as necessary.”

Petron vows Guimaras compensation, rehab,

…Plaridel Nava, provincial legal officer, told the Inquirer that his office had sent a demand letter to Petron on Aug. 25, giving the oil firm five days to either remove the vessel or siphon off the remaining oil from the tanker.

But the oil firm had asked for 10 more days and assured the provincial government that it would pay for damages.

Nava said Petron had asked the provincial government NOT TO PURSUE LITIGATION and instead process the claims for damages of residents, mostly fisherfolk who have lost their livelihood…

…Sen. Edgardo Angara asked Laurel why Petron spokesperson Virginia Ruivivar had been saying Petron was not legally responsible for the oil spill.

“So the message given to the public was really depressing and I myself was wondering how could a corporation 40-percent owned by the government say that to the public,” Angara said.

Laurel replied: “We’d like to stress that … IF we were to admit liability, then we will have a difficulty proving …”

so many safety measures already in place (and required!) internationally for oil tankers — double hulls, double-wall tanks, stringent simulations for tanker masters, ultrasonic echofathometers, radar, GPS… and still we have Petron trying to wriggle away from the liability of hiring a single-hull tanker. Petron hired a vessel unfit for crude oil transportation, knowing full well that it’s against convention.

who isn’t among the liable now, eh, Ruvivar?

(here’s a thought: what do the MT Solar I’s owners, liable for this irresponsibility, think about Petron, obviously likewise liable — remember the Exxon Valdez? — leaving them hanging out to dry?)

(on another note: the root cause of having to transport crude oil through our seas is our dependence on it; this is why we should start looking for alternative sources of fuel and energy… where’s that ethanol bill?)



August 29th, 2006 at 11:01 am

Naku Jester, hinanap mo pa ang ETHANOL saan ba hinahanap ang mga nilulumot na bills, siyempre sa Senado!

Madami pang pagdadaan sa kanila ang Ethanol Bill na yan, dadaan pa yan ng DISTILLATION at AGEING, pagpipilian din nila kung kailan ilalabas

V.S.(Very Special) = 2 yrs
V.S.O.P (Very Special Old Pale) = 4 yrs
X.O. (Extra Old) = 6 yrs



August 29th, 2006 at 11:48 am

oo nga pala, scud, the only bills that the house of reprehensibles understands are the bills they present malakanyanayan “for services rendered.”



August 29th, 2006 at 1:55 pm

i’m wondering how Shell would have responded if it was their tanker that sank … pareho din seguro .

mukhang mahirap paniwalaan na walang contingency fund and Petron para dyan kasi taon-taon na lang nababasa natin that they are enjoying record profits.

mahirap rin paniwalaan na wala silang mga studies tungkol dyan kasi marami na ring nangyaring ganyang accidents elsewhere.

and ano na nga ba ang nangyare sa proposal to relocate these Oil Companies Depot from the densely populated area of Pandacan ??? naghihintay na lang ng another accident to happen ?


Found « [Istambay sa Mindanao]

August 29th, 2006 at 11:12 pm

[…] Found this on the PCIJ website. The Guimaras oil tragedy now got a monicker of familiar reference (maybe because of the extent of its damage.) M/V Solar 1 sunk on August 11 off the coast of Guimaras – now it can be known as 8/11. Such a coincidence and also not a much tasteful poke, but why not, if only to illustrate how urgent and pressing is this taste of another maritime tragedy? […]



August 29th, 2006 at 11:32 pm

Tama kayo scud and jester-in-exile natawa tuloy ako duon sa bill “for services rendered” –tumpak!

Kakalungkot lang itong spill kasi matagal pa ito ma mitigate. Maganda pa naman sana ang Guimaras.

OK provincemate Rep. Acosta, polluter pays po dapat lang. Pero sana nga merong “environmental justice” pero baka naman environmental justice delayed, environmental justice denied rin.Haay.



tongue in, anew

August 31st, 2006 at 2:57 am

PNOC’s partner in Petron, Saudi Aramco, is equipped for such contingencies. It’s puzzling that a huge world-class oil producer is watching in the sidelines while its subsidiary is leaking timebomb poison and no one notices. They are prepared for such eventuality and if there’s ever a need for its equipment to be put in good use, then this is it!

Why can’t government flex its muscle now and demand more action, if not equivalence from its partner? Is it because our shares in Petron have become merely dummy shares?



September 1st, 2006 at 8:48 am

Why can’t government flex its muscle now and demand more action, if not equivalence from its partner?

because the functional definition of DENR is “Direct Exploitation of National Resources.”



September 1st, 2006 at 11:30 am

I spent part of my childhood days in the coastal barangay of Mantangingi (now known as East Valencia) in Buenavista, Guimaras. I cherish those days when we jump to the beach every morning, sail our toy boats, walk to a nearby islet during lowtide and gather gulaman for supper.

Now, thousands of children were deprived of that opportunity to play because of thick black oil that paints a gloomy picture for the island.

It saddens us to note that a number of government agencies and officials have been announcing to the whole world that they’ll provide this and that for the affected people. But in reality, all of these are just press releases. So far, it is the efforts of the locals that has addressed the needs of the affected families and those evacuated.

Petron, through a Japanese firm, may have located the tanker but the question is: what’s next? When will the tanker be removed? Clean up operations will be meaningless if the tanker remains down there. You clean the beach now, tomorrow it’s black again.

There are a number of international companies capable of salvaging the tanker, and we were wondering what took Petron so long to contract one. Is it the cost? If they want to protect the environment, they should pay the cost. That’s the only logical thing we can remember so far.

Those who are responsible for this catastrophe should pay for what they have done. We don’t care how, either they should pay with money or with prison terms, as long as they pay for the damage that they have done.

As we continue to suffer from the havoc of the oil spill, Guimarasnons are appealing: Restore our land… Rebuild our lives… Return our future…

We have set up a website to call for help and we hope you’ll hear our cries. Please visit and find out how you may help the poor victims of this great injustice.

Thank you!



September 1st, 2006 at 1:06 pm

from Petron passes buck of checking tanker’s condition to owner,

Ensuring the seaworthiness of the oil tanker M/T Solar 1, which caused one of the worst oil spills in Philippine history, is the responsibility of its owner and ship captain, an official from Petron Corp. said Friday.

The oil company, which chartered the vessel that sank off Guimaras Island last August 11, only conducts “random” safety inspections on the tankers it commissions, Rolando Salonga, the firm’s distribution manager, told the Special Board of Marine Inquiry.

While a “series of inspections” is done prior to loading of bunker fuel, Salonga said Petron relied on safety inspection documents submitted by owners of chartered vessels, which they would compare against an internationally-approved checklist from the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF).

Based on documents submitted by M/T Solar 1 owner Sunshine Maritime Development Corp., the vessel was “suitable and rated A,” Salonga said.

“It is really the responsibility of the ship owner to check if something needs to be corrected,” Salonga said.

“We cannot monitor every voyage of the vessel. The vessel master has the knowledge if there are difficulties,” he said.

He said the last safety check on M/T Solar 1 was on Feb. 27, 2006, right after its last dry docking or general inspection.

could a company like Petron be so stupid as to merely rely on “safety inspection documents submitted by owners of chartered vessels,” whose owners naturally want the business and thus could and would fudge on the presented inspection results? even so, having said that “a ‘series of inspections’ is done prior to loading of bunker fuel,” could they not tell that the vessel was for all intents and purposes a single-hull, single-bottom derelict half a century old, unsuitable for transport of crude oil? could their safety inspectors be so incompetent? could a company like Petron be so stupid as to employ incompetents?

Petron doing a Herod, attempting to wash its hands of any culpability… and in doing so, showing clearly how Judas-like it truly is.

of course, so is the government; not only did it take them too long to respond to the disaster, which occurred on AUGUST 11, they are likewise disinterested in pursuing justice. how so? 4 of 9 owners of sunken ship already out of the country. not only did the sunken vessel and Petron employ incompetents — we have lots of them in government as well.


Another Angle

September 1st, 2006 at 5:02 pm

Let us help Guimaras and its people!…

Being assigned in Iloilo some years ago, I used to go to bring my bike to Guimaras and stay overnight to enjoy its beaches, falls and idyllic place. The people are very kind and generous. Now they are striken with a man made catastrophe and oil spill…

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