There was no non-working holiday for some 150 members of the Provincial Employees Association of Cebu (PEACE) as they led volunteers in the clean-up drive of the oil contaminated coast of Cordova town last Wednesday, August 21.
Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer-in-Charge Chad Estella said it is a provincial government undertaking to help address the oil spill with the Capitol employees playing an active role.
The Capitol purchased 50 sets of protective gears: masks, gloves, and safety shoes for the volunteers who arrived there at around 9 am.
However, the sea was already at high tide then, which made it difficult for them to proceed. Despite the initial setback, they went ahead to work and recovered piles of garbage from the sea soaked in oil.
Five employees from the Provincial Engineer’s Office tried to wrap themselves with plastic garbage to penetrate the contaminated area in Barangay Poblacion- the area where residents of Gilutongan Island normally ride pump boats to get back to their place.
They used a net (previously used to cordon the Airsoft games during the past administration) to haul the garbage as well as the oil that stuck to it. They also used absorbent pads, sacks and linen cloth to absorb the oil.
However, PEACE President Virgilio Jakosalem immediately ordered the five employees to get off the sea upon learning from the coast guard on the hazards brought by polluted seawater, which also carried the stink of crude oil and of a dead body.
According to Renan Cimafranca from the Regional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit 7 of the Department of Health, it is not safe to dip oneself into the bunker fuel tainted seawater or to be exposed longer to the foul smell. If a headache is experienced, they should stay away from the site as much as possible.
He also reiterated that seafoodfrom the contaminated waters of Cordova is not advisable to eat.
Governor Hilario P. Davide III said the Japanese experts from Malayan Towage, contacted by the 2Go Management to address the oil spill, were already taking deeper steps to determine the state of the engine fuel of the MV Saint Thomas Aquinas.
He said even if they were able to seal the leak, the oil could still find another opening. The vessel, which sank after it collided with cargo ship Sulpicio Express Siete a few kilometers from the Cebu port, carries 20 tons of diesel and 120 tons of banker fuel.
The governor also instructed Estella to verify the reports that the oil spill has now encroached the waters of Mandaue City. However, Davide said his survey with the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), did not show visible signs of the oil slick in Mandaue City.
The oil spill in Cordova has affected barangays Buagsong, Day-as, Bangbang, Catarman and Poblacion.
Davide was also in Cordova with the Capitol employees. Mayor Adelino Sitoy, who was happy with the reports that the Bakasi were actually safe to eat after all (despite the DOH precautions), welcomed the volunteers in his town.
In an interview he said the Bakasi, a fish species known by many as an aphrodisiac, were spared as they usually hide to the holes of the seabed when they sense something is wrong in the surface.
He said the fish is just meaningful to them as it is what the town is known for. (Xerxes Alkuino)