Thursday, September 07, 2006

Australian Firm Offers to Take Out Guimaras Oil For Free

Last night, I had dinner with my friend Bob Schubert at Italianni's-Greenbelt Makati. Bob is an Australian national who owns a wastewater treatment plant, RD Environmental Solutions located inside the Cavite Export Processing Zone (CEZA). The two of us decided to meet and catch up after I found out that he was presently in the country (Bob regularly commutes to and fro Sydney and Manila). What started out as a casual dinner eventually turned into a serious discussion on the Petron Oil Spill presently affecting the provinces of Guimaras, Iloilo and Negros Occidental.

I told Bob that presently, Petron has hired locals on a "cash-for-work" basis to do manual cleaning operations in Guimaras. But the problem is, I said, no one seems to know how to dispose of the oil has been taken out from the sea, Today, drums and drums of contaminated oil are just lying at designated "deposit points" in Guimaras. Guimaras Governor JC Rahman Nava has already demanded that Petron take the drums of contaminated oil out of his province but I do not know whether the oil company had already complied with his order (i have yet to read a news article on this in the media).

Bob said that if not transported and treated right away, the contaminated oil would create more problems and do more damage to the environment. If allowed time, oil will seep into the ground and he claims that it is harder to rehabilitate and/or separate oil and soil than oil and water. He observed that our authorities should not have "separated" the oil from the sea without first making arrangements for its rapid transportation and treatment. The way he sees it it's like we are just taking the pollutants out of the sea and transferring it to land, thereby increasing the damage to the environment. Whereas before, the oil spill only wreaked havoc on the marine ecosystem (mangroves and corral reefs) of Western Visayas, now we are also contaminating our terrain (our flora and fauna) by allowing drums of contaminated oil to just lay for extended periods.

As he was making his observations, I was just nodding my head but silently I was seething inside and marveling at the stupidity and incompetence of the people currently engaged in the clean up. And even environmental groups like Greenpeace (who are closely monitoring relief and rehab efforts in Guimaras) have not seen this. I remember that one cardinal rule during accidents is that you are not supposed to move an injured person (or make him stand up) without a medical expert taking a look at him first. This is so because moving him/her might cause more damage to his/her bones and internal organs.

All I can say in response to Bob's observations is: "Well, the Philippines has a National Disaster Coordination Plan (NDCP) which is a disaster!"

In the end, Bob Schubert offered to take out the drums of contaminated oil FOR FREE, provided that the drums should already be gathered in one designated pick up point for easy retrieval. He said that his Cavite plant can easily treat the contaminated oil. So today and tomorrow, I will try to contact the local government officials involved in the Petron Oil Spill clean up operations to present Bob's observations and his generous offer.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's a GREAT NEWS! Thanks again Oliver and more power to you.