‘Oil spill has minimal impact in Cordova,’ says study

Human interactions may have greater impact on mangroves in Cordova town than an oil spill. This was according to the post spill environmental study by professors of the University of the Philippines Visayas – Iloilo in the municipality of Cordova conducted last April. This was around eight months after the ship collision incident in Cebu City last August 16 that caused the oil spill.

Copies of the said study were distributed to the concerned government agencies. The Provincial Government, who backed Cordova’s lawsuit against the shipping companies, also received a copy of the report through Provincial Administrator Atty. Mark Tolentino.

The study said, “Numerous on-going anthropogenic activities such as the construction of structures that impede normal tidal flushing, harvesting for firewood and others may have greater effect on mangroves that a single event of an oil spill.” Prof. Resurreccion Sadaba, chosen as one of the 2014 Metrobank Foundation Most Outstanding Teachers, headed the team commissioned by 2GO to hold an environmental study in Cordova.

Sadaba recommended that with the “on-going coastal developments in Cordova,” coastal initiatives should include “robust monitoring and data gathering mechanisms in order to better understand the natural resources of the area.” Heavily affected barangays were Bangbang, Day-as, Buagsong, Catarman, and Poblacion.

The study noted that the mortality of mangroves occurred only in the first three months after the oil spill. Of the 144.9 hectares of natural stand mangrove forest, 0.43 ha or equivalent to 29 percent succumbed to the oil spill and died. Most of the mortality is recorded in Barangay Day-as. Sadaba said this “might be attributed to the greater volume of oil that landed on the site as well as the low flushing of tidal waters resulting from the construction of man-made structure near the area that restricted the regular flow of waters.”

Sadaba said the numerous number of Avicenni marina, (grey mangrove or white mangrove), recorded in April “especially in the area where greatest mortality was observed could be the first evidence of recovery of the habitat.” The researchers also found high toxicity level in shellfish and crab samples in the April study on the affected areas.

“However, laboratory analysis of sediment and water samples taken from the above sites were found to be below and within the recommended safe level,” said Prof. Ida Pahila in her Chemical assessment of water, sediment and biological samples in oil-impacted barangays of Cordova.

Pahila concluded, “Hence, the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons concentrations in seafood tissues collected on these sites maybe due to chronic inputs rather than the effects of a one-time oil spill.”

Last August, the municipality of Cordova, together with the fisher folks, filed a case against the owners of M/V St Thomas Aquinas, a passenger ferry owned by 2Go Group Inc. and Sulpicio Express Siete, a cargo vessel of Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corp.

The town is asking for about Php 182 million in damages for the rehabilitation of its marine ecology that was damaged by the oil spill. The fisher folks also asked for Php 81 million indemnity to recover their losses in livelihood.

The Department of the Environment and Natural Resources, the Maritime Industry and the Philippine Coast Guard were also impleaded in the case.