(Task Force Oil Spill (TFOS) Meeting
Board Room, Office of the Governor
Capitol, Iloilo City ,
Kuan Yu Global Technologies, Inc., the contractor, reports it is already complete.
However, the rest of the Task Force Oil Spill insist it’s far from over.
Kuan Yu representative Valentino G. Menpin, also a task force member, reported that its contract is almost done since the oil spill, the disaster that came November 8, 2013 when supertyphoon Yolanda slammed the state-owned Napocoro’s Power Barge 103 from its berth to the rocky shore of Brgy. Botongon, Estancia town.
That report though was challenged by Dr. Resurrection Sadaba, the oceanologist from the University of the Philippines in the Visayas (UPV) who came up with a power-point presentation on the contractor’s deficiencies.
The spill has spread to Batad and San Dionisio towns. As result mangroves there are “dead or dying”. Some are still alive but are “defoliating”, goes Sadaba’s presentation. The slides further show shores still with bunker oil some of which becoming “asphalt formation.”
Kuan Yu so far has only collected the liquid and solid debris and stored them in makeshift warehouses instead of shipping them for treatment by licensed bunker fuel processing plants, comments Cmmdr. Athelo Ybanez, Philippine Coast Guard (PSG) director for W. Visayas and assistant chair of the task force.
“The collected debris has to be shipped out immediately”, insisted Gov. Arthur D. Defensor, Sr., chair of the task force. Kuan Yu’s Velentino G. Menpin requested for a copy of the power-point presentation. Defensor told him: “We will furnish you but that’s not necessary because you have to remove it immediately with or without the copy.”
Ybanez reminded Menpin that Kuan Yu violated its program by “sand seeding” the debris on the shore. “It’s not in your program of work. Your contract states that you have to remove the pollutant and apply bio-degreasing substances under controlled condition,” he added.
“Sand seeding” is a process of spreading sand on the spill.
At Kuan Yu’s warehouse, some barrels are leaking while the sacks containing the solid wastes had punctures that spilled the solid particles on the uncemented flooring. “This is dangerous to the health of the people. The leaking bunker fuel has the danger of seeping down to underground water tables,” explained Ybanez.
What about the health condition of people?
Toxicologists from Manila sent by the Department of Health in November should that persons examined for lead contamination have “7.18” lead content in their blood, that is 7.18 micro-grams per one deci-liter of blood which was still below the tolerable level of 10 micro-grams, explained Dr. Glenn Alonsabe, epidemiologist at the DOH regional office here.
Alonsabe though asked that blood test of persons along the contaminated areas be done every three months to include Coast Guard and Marina personnel, and workers hired by Kuan Yu.
Persons interviewed by health authorities complained of skin and eye irritation, sore throat, breathing difficultyu, dizziness, nausea and lack of appetite due to the air they breathed, added Alonsabe.
Blood testing is voluntary though. Alonsabe noted that people fear having their blood samples taken. Cmmdr. Ybanez had the same observation on Coast Guard personnel who requested that only droplets be extracted from them instead of one 5 c.c. vial of blood.
Twenty-meters from the shore of Botongon is still off-limit for people due to high benzene contamination. Alonsabe noted that Kuan Yu violated safety procedures by not providing its personnel “PPE”.
A recent visit by TFOS in Estancia exposed them the view of Kuan Yu workers wearing only long sleeves and surgical masks. The PPE that Alonsabe mentioned stands for “personal protective equipment” that includes an overall attire from head to foot, a gask mask and rubber gloves and boots. Some workers they saw at work were in their slippers.
Mary Grace Prodigo Lobaton, head of the NGO Save Our Seas (SOS) inquired on Kuan Yu’s plan for the bunker fuel contaminated soil its personnel scooped from the soil surface. She showed them picture of bunker contaminated gravel stockpiled on roadside, and another picture of the road where another stockpile had just been graded on the surface.
“We will verify that,” answered Menpin. “That’s not in our plan.”
Before adjourning the meeting the TFOS ordered Kuan Yu to follow the DOH guideline on work hours that is only from 6 to 10 in the morning, and from 2 to 5 in the afternoon to avoid the hottest period of the day which releases more volumes of the deadly benzene gas.