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August 25, 2006 Friday

President Arroyo Declared Oil Spill A "State of National Calamity"

oil spill in guimaras
Today, Friday, It has been declared by the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that the Guimaras oil spill has been the state of the national calamity. The President called all the concerned government agencies regarding the environmental and health problems which was brought by the disaster.

Arroyo said in a speech at the national convention of the National Prosecutors League of the Philippines in Cebu, "I am declaring the Guimaras oil spill as a national calamity that demands the cooperation and solidarity of all Filipinos. Let us do what has to be done first and deal with the blame later."

The President also called the attention of Petron Corporation and the owner of the sunken tanker Solar I to “immediately clean up the mess.”

Presidential Chief of Staff Michael Defensor said it was an “official declaration.” when asked if the President was just describing the situation or actually making an official declaration.

Chief of the Presidential Management Staff, Arthur Yap, also established the statement as an official declaration intended to allow Arroyo to organize all the resources needed to address the crisis created by the country’s worst oil spill.

President Arroyo’s visit to Guimaras tomorrow, Saturday will give her a clearer picture of the needs of the affected communities and of how much funding to discharge for the cleanup efforts, Yap added.

Headed by Defense Secretary and National Disaster Coordinating Council chairman Avelino Cruz Jr., Arroyo has created the inter-agency Task Force Guimaras to oversee efforts to clean up the oil spill.

The Solar I, chartered by Petron to pull 2 million liters of bunker fuel to Zamboanga, sank off Guimaras on August 11. The resulting oil slick damaging more than 200 kilometers of coastline, hundreds of hectares of mangrove swamp and a marine reserve, spreading to the neighboring province of Iloilo and threatening Negros Occidental, since then, it has spilled out some 350,000 gallons.

The President said that she is deeply concerned over the mounting health hazards in the communities affected by the oil slick and have ordered a careful and quick assessment of the situation by health authorities followed by punctual and continued actions.

President Arroyo has added more mobile hospitals and it will be set up as soon as possible and evacuation procedures will be undertaken as necessary "to ease suffering and save lives."

On Monday, a Japanese rescue vessel will arrive which Petron has bespoken. They are to determine the position of the sunken vessel and siphon off the remaining oil, which environmentalists have described as a “ticking time bomb.”