Oil slick calamity needs quick response


Half a million liters of diesel oil has fouled the waters off Cavite after it leaked from a pipeline in a fuel depot in Rosario town on Thursday. Four towns are feeling the brunt of the catastrophe, with some residents forced to leave their homes because of the overwhelming fumes from the oil slick that stretched for 20 kilometers along the Cavite coast.

The health risk it posed is just the tip of a bigger tragedy. Thousands of small fishermen and their families have been deprived of their livelihood.

Cavite has long been famous for its tahong and talaba, and provincial authorities dread the damage wreaked by the oil spill on the shellfish and mussel harvest.

And then there is the toll on the marine ecosystem. Already there are reports of dead fish and shellfish turning up in Manila Bay. The long-term effects of the oil spill on the bay’s resources will have to be closely monitored.

A massive clean-up effort is needed to limit the damage from the spilled oil. And it has to be launched now. The question is who will pay for it.

Petron Corporation, who owns the depot in Rosario, has hedged in accepting responsibility for spill, saying it will wait for the results of its investigation of the incident. Herma Shipping and Transport Corp., the owner of the tanker MV Makisig, which was unloading the diesel at the Petron facility, has not issued an official statement, although the ship’s skipper refuses to take the blame.

The Philippine Coast Guard, however, has said it found a hole in the pipeline where the oil leaked out. What it could not determine is what caused the breach.

Going after who is responsible is not the main issue at the moment. The focus should be on ridding Manila Bay of the slick before it spreads further and bring more havoc to coastal communities already reeling from its effects.


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