Fri, Aug 18, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Damage from Philippine oil spill hits province hard

AP , MANILA

The Philippines' worst oil spill could plunge one of the country's poorest provinces deeper into poverty by ravaging fisheries and other coastal resources, officials said.

The Solar I, carrying 2 million liters of fuel oil, sank on Friday in deep waters south of the island province of Guimaras.

Provincial Governor Joaquin Nava said on Wednesday that the oil spill has affected or damaged 15km2 of coral reefs, over 200km of coastline, 1,000 hectares of marine reserves, at least two resort islands and 50 hectares of seaweed plantations.

Nava said about a third of his province's 150,000 constituents live off the sea and an estimated 10,000 residents of coastal villages who rely on fishing are temporarily without livelihood.

"Only lately, we pulled ourselves out of the 20 poorest [provinces in the Philippines]. Now I suppose we will be going back," Nava said.

The provincial government on Monday declared a "state of calamity" in Guimaras, which allows the speedy release of relief funds in the area, about 500km southeast of Manila.

Valladolid town, in nearby Negros Occidental Province east of Guimaras, made a similar declaration on Tuesday as the oil slick approached its shores.

Coast guard officials did not know how much of the fuel oil has spilled out from the tanker, which is lying 900m under water.

Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes told provincial officials that Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo instructed him to seek help from Indonesia and Malaysia.

Nicasio Alcantara, chairman of Petron Corp, the fuel supplier, promised to fulfill its responsibilities in helping with the cleanup.

Clemente Cancio of tanker owner Sunshine Maritime Development Corp said his company will send British experts to assess whether the tanker might be salvaged or the remaining fuel oil siphoned out.

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