Guimaras, Negros Fishermen Face Bleak Future in Wake of Oil Spill

Article excerpt

Byline: MARVYN N. BENANING

At least 15,000 fishermen and their 100,000 estimated dependents will be directly affected by oil spill disaster, and the devastation to the environment and marine resources could far exceed government estimates, the Pambansang Lakas ng Nagkakaisang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said yesterday.

Even auxilliary industries relying on marine resources would likewise feel the pinch, Pamalakaya said.

The oil spill off Guimaras Island is seven times worse than the Semirara disaster, according to Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap . Semirara is an island off Panay in Western Visayas.

Hicap said the damage to fisheries is devastating and unless the spill is cleaned up fast, fishermen in Guimaras and Antique would be hungry in the next three years.

The Pamalakaya leader said his group has asked Sen. Jamby Madrigal, Bayan Muna Rep. Joel Virador and Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano to call for congressional investigations into the oil spill.

He also scored President Arroyo for trying to absolve Petron Corp., the country's biggest oil company, and Sunshine Maritime Dev't Corp. (SMDC), the shipowner, in the massive oil spill.

Hicap stressed that Arroyo must not spend taxpayers' money to finance the clean-up, arguing that Petron and SMDC must shoulder the cost of restoring marine life in Guimaras and Negros Occidental.

Both provinces are peopled by fish-eaters, said Pamalakaya-Negros Occidental secretary general Editho Namion, and the failure of fishermen to sail and catch fish would cause fish prices to go up.

Pamalakaya also dismissed the investigation to be conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, saying DENR Secretary Angelo Reyes and Arroyo "lack the credibility to conduct an honest investigation."

Meanwhile, oil tankers traversing Philippine seas must have double hulls to protect the environment in case of accidents, opposition Sen. Jamby Madrigal said yesterday.

Madrigal, an environment advocate said she is to file a bill seeking to require vessels to have double hulls last week's massive oil spill in Guimaras island by Petron corporation, one of the country's Big 3 in the oil industry. …