Thursday, September 28, 2006

Semirara, The Other Oil Spill

Now that national media attention has been focused on the Petron Oil Spill and Malacañang has declared Guimaras as a calamity area, let me now direct attention to the other, "lesser-known" oil spill that happened only last December 18, 2005 off the coast of Semirara island in Antique province. Browsing over old news reports about that tragedy, one gets a sense that Filipinos are not so forward-looking and that we never seem to learn from the mistakes of the past.

In that incident, approximately 364,000 liters of bunker fuel seeped out of a Napocor barge (Power Barge 106) when it ran aground 200 meters off Semirara island. The oil spill affected some 230 hectares of shoreline, sandy and rocky beach, and mangroves in Antique (Read more here). Like in Guimaras, inclement weather was blamed for causing the accident. And as in Guimaras, local residents were provided with rubber gloves and paid to manually clean up the sludge. And as we have come to expect when disasters like these occur, political leaders tried to project some semblance of official action in Semirara - Congress conducted its usual investigations "in aid of legislation" (read this Senate Resolution) and there were calls to improve the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (if ever there was one). I think it is safe to assume that nothing much came out of these purported "reforms" because another disastours oil spill happened a mere 8 months after Semirara.

The Semirara Oil Spill should have been the wake-up call, our clarion call to prevent similar disasters from happening in the future, much like the 1993 car bombing of the New York Twin Tower should have portended and alerted the Americans of the impending terrorist attack in 2001. I hate to think about it but if only our media had devoted more attention to the Semirara tragedy, the Petron Oil Spill in Guimaras would have never have happened. If only our government officials have acted and implemented measures to prevent similar "accidents" from happening, Guimaras would still be the pristine paradise that it was before the oil spill. Moreover, Semirara should have given government agencies like NDCC, Coast Guard and oil companies like Petron invaluable experience and practical knowledge on oil spill mitigation and disaster management techniques. Instead, when the Petron Oil Spill broke out, our government officials were so unprepared and obviously did not know how to deal with it. Our national disaster plans are a total disaster.

As a people, Filipinos do not know how to plan for the worst. We seldom prepare for contingencies: walang Plan B, Plan C, Plan D sa atin. In fact, we always tend to look at the bright side of things - I think sociologists call it the "bahala na" attitude. Filipinos are inherently optimistic and passionately temperamental - a trait we got from our Spanish forebears - which decidedly makes us more Latino than Asian in outlook.

Well, I guess you need to have a little "bahala na" attitude to survive in this blighted, disaster-prone country called the Philippines. This is probably the reason why, despite all the corruption, bad governance and meager economic opportunities in the country, various surveys show that Filipinos are among the happiest persons in the planet.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Browsing over old news reports about that tragedy, one gets a sense that Filipinos are not so forward-looking and that we never seem to learn from the mistakes of the past.
see:

http://www.pcgapal.com/Mews.htm

Concerned people of Palawan
November 2008

Anonymous said...

Browsing over old news reports about that tragedy, one gets a sense that Filipinos are not so forward-looking and that we never seem to learn from the mistakes of the past.
see:

http://www.pcgapal.com/News.htm

Concerned people of the Calamianes Island Group in North Palawan
November 2008