British expert: Keep children out of oil spill

DSC_0012An oil spill expert strongly advised against the involvement of school children in the ongoing oil spill clean up in Cordova.

At the Incident Command Team Meeting at the Provincial Capitol on August 29, Dr. Michael O’Brien, technical manager of the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation Limited (ITOPF) saidkids should be kept out of the oil- contaminated areas of Cordova. To emphasize his point, O’Brien said “this is the worst idea that I’ve ever heard in my entire career.”

Its website describes ITOPF as a not-for-profit organization established on behalf of the world’s shipowners to promote an effective response to marine spills of oil, chemicals and other hazardous substances. ITOPF was hired by 2GO Group, Inc. to guide its oil spill clean-up operations.

O’Brien,however, did not mention where the idea came from. The Philippine Coast Guard Central Visayasis on top of the clean up drive in Cordova with volunteers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

According to O’Brien, he found no reason for the children and their families to be exposed to the oil spill. “If the children go in there and whenever they become sick, we never gonna know why. Is it because of the oil spill or it is just that they are sick?”

In his observation, O’Brien also stressed that in order to reduce the pressure on the mangroves, the people, except those who are working with the coast guard, should stay away from it. He said walking along the affected areas would push the oil into the mud, which would make it more difficult to remove the oil. He added they must also get rid of using chemicals and avoid cutting of mangroves.

The town folks of Cordova, which absorbed much of the damage from the oil spill, are prohibited from touching or even approaching close to the mangrove areas, said PCG Commander Commodore William Melad. However, there are still those seen cutting the mangroves.

2GO Group Ormoc Manager Calvin Rosellosa said they also expressed concern when they saw some people, including children take a bath in the polluted Cordova seawater. Rosellosa said there is a huge progress in their clean up operations but the oil is not yet completely removed from the waters.

Provincial Administrator Atty. Mark Tolentino, who chaired the meeting, asked O’Brien and Melad to make an assessment on the oil spill that also encroached the coastlines of Talisay City due to the changing direction of the winds.

The total affected families of the oil spill is now at 7,981 with 3,201 in Cordova; 2,326 in Talisay City and 2,454 in Lapu-lapu City, according to Shalaine Lucero, operations division chief of the Department of Social Welfare and Development 7. The number consists of fishermen, vendors, and those residents along the shorelines.

Lucero also said the P17.16 million cash-for-work program of DSWD 7 for the affected families in Cordova has been approved. She said they would start implementing the program next week. Part of the work would be for the beneficiaries to help in the clean-up operation.

They can also do work related to disaster preparedness, mitigation, and response like planting of more mangroves; and other work recommended by the local government units. Only one person per family will be qualified to avail of the 10-day program.

The removal of oil from the MV Saint Thomas Aquinas, which sank underneath the Lawis Ledge in Talisay following its collision with cargo vessel Sulpicio Express Siete, is scheduled on September 9. NeolKimmayom of Malayan Towage said they estimated it to be finished after 10 days.

Rosellosa, however, said it would still depend on the sea condition. If the underwater current is unbearable for the divers, the oil removal may take a longer time than expected. (Xerxes Alkuino)