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PIA Press Release

RDC-7 plans to impose toll fees on oil tankers using Visayan sea

by Rey Anthony Chiu

Tagbilaran City (4 April) -- GOING proactive against the eventuality of another environmental disaster in the Visayan inner seas, the Regional Development Council-7 (RDC-7) has proposed to impose toll charges on oil tankers passage here.

The imposition is one measure the RDC identified to forestall the recurrence of another calamity similar to the sinking of oil tanker M/T Solar I, which leaked an estimated 1.3M liters of bunker fuel in the seas off Guimaras Island in Iloilo.

The funds generated from the toll could be used for clean-up activities in the event of oil spills and for marine disaster mitigation, sources at the RDC said.

In search for appropriate action towards this end, the Council, led by Chairman George Arnaiz has referred the matter to the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) for study and this should form part of their national measures to avoid marine pollution and disasters.

As this developed, with the recovery of about 900,000 liters of oil from the sunken oil tanker, the government focuses on pinpointing those responsible for the sinking of the vessel, a Malacaņang official said.

Presidential Adviser for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela urged the Department of Justice (DoJ) and other government agencies to take action against those responsible for the oil spill.

Last year, the Board of Marine Inquiry that created a special body to look into the sinking of M/T Solar 1 found out that the vessel was overloaded had an incompetent crew.

It ordered the MARINA to file administrative charges against Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. (SMDC), owner of the M/T Solar 1; Petron Corp., which chartered the vessel; and the ship's captain, Norberto Aguro.

Aguro's incompetence led him to commit a "disabling error of judgment" when he decided to brave the storm. Aguro holds a license for the operation of a chemical tanker, but not in oil tanker operations, special body officials said.

Moreover, the tanker's owners completely disregarded regulations, policies and requirements for seaworthiness of the vessel. Petron Corp. was also found liable for overloading industrial fuel oil, but the oil firm maintained that the cargo was within the vessel's capacity.

The DoJ and the Senate conducted their own inquiries but it was not clear who would file the complaint or impose the penalties, Coscolluela said.

If any government agencies violated regulations or failed to implement the regulations, then they should be held to account, Coscolluela said and added that he would raise the issue during the meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) after the Holy Week.

"We have to make sure something must come out of it, determine the guilty parties. It should not be forgotten. We have learned our lessons. It should be corrected," he said. (PIA) [top]

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