Following massive oil spill, Cebu now under state of calamity
Fred Languido, AJ de la Torre (The Freeman) - August 20, 2013 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Provincial Board yesterday declared Cebu under a state of calamity.

The action was made to enable the province to access its Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF), also known as calamity fund, to address the effects of the oil spill that resulted from the collision of MV St. Thomas Aquinas and Sulpicio Express Siete last Friday night in Lawis Ledge, at the entrance to the Cebu south harbor.

The sinking of the MV St. Thomas Aquinas has caused a massive oil spill, affecting mangrove plantations and fish pens, as well as the livelihood of fishermen in the Municipality of Cordova.

“There is a need to make an abrupt and immediate action to stop the disaster from spreading further and the need to authorize the Governor to make use of the calamity funds for this said purpose,” said PB Member Thadeo Ouano in his resolution.

Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III explained that the entire Province of Cebu was declared under a state of calamity in anticipation of the spread of the oil spill to other areas outside Cordova and Talisay City.

He said the province has over P100 million in calamity funds, which can be used to extend relief assistance to fishermen whose livelihood have been affected by the oil spill. He added that 30 percent of the fund can also be used as a quick response fund for the ongoing search and recovery operations.

Meanwhile, officials of the Municipality of Cordova also declared the town under a state of calamity, with Mayor Adelino Sitoy reporting that all the 13 barangays of Cordova have been affected by the oil slick, grounding fishermen who rely on their catch for their daily subsistence. He added that close to 500 hectares of mangrove plantations have also been damaged, including a 50-hectare area with newly-planted mangrove propagules, as well as plantations at the Parola (light house), Shell Island and other parts of the municipality.         

The P3 million calamity fund of the municipality, Sitoy said, will be used, among others, to help the 1,000 registered fishermen in Cordova who need immediate food assistance from the government. “Nagkinahanglan gyud sila og pamugas (They really need food),” Sitoy said.

Fish pens in the municipality have also felt the ill-effects of the oil spill. A fish pen lost at least P600,000 after over 2,000 fishes expected to be harvested next week were found dead the other day.

Sitoy, a lawyer, said that with the extent of the damage that the oil spill has caused, the municipal government is contemplating on filing criminal and civil charges against whoever is found negligent in the incident. He is initially eyeing a criminal complaint for reckless imprudence resulting to damage to property against either 2GO Shipping Lines or Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corporation (formerly Sulpicio Lines), depending on who is found at fault by the Board of Marine Inquiry, which will convene soon to investigate the collision.

Sitoy, however, said that 2GO, through its vice president for operations Lito Salvio, gave an assurance that the company is doing its best to contain the oil spill.

The 2GO group has hired Malayan towage and salvage group to handle the oil spill, which immediately sent two cargo ships that are properly equipped in containing oil spills. Company officials also asked local government units to help stop the spread of the oil by contributing materials that can be used to absorb oil like chicken feathers, human hair, coconut husk and cogon grass. Cordova has also sought the services of a company that provides pads that are used to absorb the oil in the sea water.

Cebu Sixth District Representative Luis Gabriel Quisumbing also called on the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the region to extend assistance to the families in Cordova, whose means of livelihood has been interrupted due to the oil spill.

“As we know, many fisherfolk depend on the day's catch to purchase their daily necessities. The interruption of their livelihood over the last few days due to the tragedy has severely compromised their ability to provide for their families,” Quisumbing said.

DSWD-7 has already started validating procedures to identify affected families in preparation for the distribution of goods and other forms of assistance.

The tragic collision of the MV St. Thomas Aquinas and the Sulpicio Express Siete has left at least 56 people dead and 64 missing as of 6 p.m. yesterday. The search and rescue operations will resume at 7 a.m. today. — with Flor Z. Perolina/QSB (FREEMAN)

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