Firm assures no oil debris will be left in Guimaras

(Leo Solinap photo)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo


The owner of the power barge stationed in Iloilo City that triggered an oil spill earlier this month assured local officials of Guimaras that it will never leave the island until it has cleaned up the spill.

In a meeting on July 18, 2020, representatives of AC Energy Philippines said it will do everything to clear the island province of oil sludges and other contaminants that affected more than 30 villages.

AC Energy owns Power Barge 102 which exploded and caused an oil spill last July 3, 2020. The barge is stationed at Bo. Obrero, Lapuz which was also heavily affected by the spill.

Guimaras Gov. Samuel Gumarin earlier asked the firm to ensure that not a drop of oil or debris will be left in the island, which also fell victim to the MT Solar 1 oil spill in August 2006.

In a phone interview, Guimaras Vice Governor John Edward Gando confirmed the meeting with AC Energy Philippines Plant Operations head Gabby Mejia, lone district Rep. Lucille Nava, Gov. Samuel T. Gumarin, Mayor Ruben Corpuz of Jordan, and former Guimaras congressman JC Rahman A. Nava.

Gando said AC Energy assured them that they will not use detergents to clean the affected areas of the bunker fuel from the barge.

“They are working together with the Coast Guard, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Environmental Management Bureau and other agencies in the clean-up,” he added.

The firm is also working with Dr. Rex Sadaba of UP Visayas in crafting a viable program for the clean-up and rehabilitation of affected areas.

More than 20 villages in Guimaras were affected by the spill, mostly in Buenavista (17), Jordan (8) and parts of Nueva Valencia and San Lorenzo.

Gando said they are thankful that none of the affected residents evacuated in the aftermath of the spill.

“Most of the fuel contaminated the sands and pebbles in affected areas. AC Energy promised to remove the debris out of the province using their own barge,” he added.

Gando said he reminded AC Energy of the still pending lawsuits relative to the 2006 oil spill in Guimaras.

“It’s an arduous process for us. It has been 14 years since the lawsuits were filed, so it is better if AC Energy can deliver on their promises,” he added.

Gando said Mejia and their consultant AECOM Philippines presented their action plans during the meeting.

Mejia said the firm will employ Shoreline Clean-up and Assessment Technique (SCAT), an international standard method of surveying and documenting the impact of spills on shorelines.

It also measures the effectiveness of cleanup activities, conduct of post-cleanup inspections and evaluations, and assessment of fisheries and mangrove rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, AC Energy said all 308 families in Lapuz, Iloilo City who were affected by the spill have returned to their homes.

Mejia said the last remaining 41 households were cleared and passed the reintegration parameters and have returned home on Saturday.

The reintegration parameters were developed and executed by a multi-stakeholder task force composed of various barangays in Iloilo City, the Iloilo City Government and concerned offices, the Philippine Coast Guard, AC Energy Philippines and its consultant AECOM Philippines and cleanup contractor Harbor Star Shipping Services Inc.

The families that have returned are from the following barangays: Mansaya, 70 families on July 15; Bo. Obrero Zone 2, 102 families on July 16; Bo. Obrero Zone 3, 95 families on July 17; and Bo. Obrero Zone 3, 41 families on July 18.

AC Energy said it also distributed 2,350 food packs to communities of Loboc, Mansaya and Bo. Obrero in collaboration with local leaders.