Experts assess oil spill impact

British experts arrived Thursday in the central Philippines to help assess and control a major oil spill that could ravage fisheries and other coastal resources in one of the country’s poorest provinces, officials said.

In Manila, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the government is appealing to international agencies “to help us accelerate the efforts to clean up the area.”

The Solar I started leaking some of the 2 million liters (528,360 gallons) of fuel oil it was carrying after it sank Friday in deep waters south of the island province of Guimaras, which has been declared a calaamity area, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) southeast of Manila. Two of the 20 crewmen were still missing Thursday.

The two British oil spill experts from the International Tanker Oil Pollution Federation “will check the oil pollution, all the clean up to be done, and to assess and come up with the recommendations,” said Clemente Cancio, president of tanker owner Sunshine Maritime Development Corp.

He said they were sent by the Luxembourg-based Shipowners Mutual Protection and Indemnity Association, his company’s insurer.

He said the Britons conducted an aerial survey over Guimaras on Thursday and will work closely with the coast guard.

Company secretary Gregorio Flores said they will also determine what equipment may be used to salvage the vessel, which is 900 meters (3,000 feet) under water south of Guimaras.

Provincial Gov. Joaquin Nava said the oil slick has covered 300 kilometers (188 miles) of coastline and about 500 hectares (1,236 acres) of mangrove forests.

Nava said the contamination has spread to 20 villages in three towns and several islets. He earlier said the oil spill has affected or damaged 15 square kilometers (10 square miles) of coral reefs, 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) of marine reserves, at least two resort islands and 50 hectares (124 acres) of seaweed plantations.

“As of now this is just part of the total,” he said. “Nobody has a clear view of what is happening in that vessel so nobody knows how much has leaked out.”

The spill could take months or even years to clean up, said Von Hernandez, Southeast Asia campaign director for the environmental group Greenpeace.

Nava said residents were helping contain the slick with bamboo floaters fitted with sacks of absorbent materials like rice straw, rice hull and coconut husk and possibly chicken feathers.

Source: The China Post