Groups call for urgent action on Aklan oil spill

On-scene monitoring by New Washington Mayor Jessica R. Panambo, Punong Barangay Alex Dela Cruz, and Philippine Coast Guard personnel. (New Washington MDRRMO photo)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

Environmental organizations are calling for immediate action on the oil spill that has devastated the livelihood of fisherfolk in New Washington, Aklan.

The Makakalikasan-Nature Party Philippines has expressed deep concern over the incident, citing extensive environmental damage and disruption to local communities’ livelihoods.

The group said the oil spill, which occurred on May 26, underscores the risks posed by the transport and use of fossil fuels as an energy source.

“This incident is a stark reminder of the dangers associated with our continued reliance on non-renewable energy sources,” they said.

They further emphasized that transporting fossil fuels endangers coastal and marine ecosystems and threatens the economic stability of communities that depend on these environments.

The group reiterated their call for a rapid transition to local renewable energy sources.

“This shift is essential to prevent future environmental disasters and to promote a more sustainable and resilient energy system,” they added.

Investigations revealed that the oil leak originated from a barge under maintenance at Metallica Shipyard.

The Philippine Coast Guard estimated that approximately 150 liters of oil were spilled.

Authorities reported detecting oil sheens around the shipyard in Barangay Polo, Barangay Poblacion (Sitio Malogo, Kamingawan, Lagatik, Riverside), and Barangay Tambak (Sitio Kamangahan).

Meanwhile, Greenpeace said the oil spill in New Washington is a stark reminder that no one is immune to the climate crisis, not even industries dependent on fossil fuels.

“They are now feeling the impacts of extreme weather events, bearing the thumbprint of climate change — such as Typhoon Aghon,” Greenpeace campaigner Khevin Yu said.

The spill was attributed to heavy southwest monsoon rains, which led to a rapid rise in water levels, flooding a barge and causing the oil leak.

Yu stressed that communities remain the main casualty of the climate crisis.

“Aklan and other small island communities are in the best position to shift away from fossil fuel power barges as renewable energy becomes more accessible and cheaper,” he added.

Greenpeace warned that continued use and expansion of fossil fuels would lead to more irreversible damage, especially during extreme weather events.

They added that the New Washington oil spill is not an isolated incident and could recur if the government does not address the regulatory and accountability issues highlighted by the Mindoro oil spill.

In March 2023, the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro affected several Marine Protected Areas in Western Visayas.

In a press conference on June 1, Engr. Jonathan Salvador, owner of Metallica Shipyard, reported that cleanup efforts are 60 to 80 percent complete.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development has begun distributing food packs to affected families.

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