Legal action vs owners of oil sludge-carrying barge planned

Task Force Macajalar representative and lawyer Manuel Ravanera said they have received reports from fisherfolk organizations that oil debris from the sunken barge has been spotted near Oroqueta City .

If the reports are true, Ravanera said oil debris can threaten the Misamis Occidental Aqu-Marine Park in the town of Sinacaban , Misamis Occidental.

The park is one of the most advanced and successful marine coastal environment efforts in the country.

Ravanera said the environmental damage will also affect the lives of thousands of fishermen in Zamboanga del Norte, Lanao del Norte,  Misamis Oriental and Misamis Occidental provinces.

M/B Ras, carried 59,000 sacks or 600 metric tons of sludge from Guimaras, when it left Cabalgnan port in Guimaras  towed by tugboat “M/T Vega” last Sunday.

Enroute to Holcim Cement plant in Lugait, Misamis Oriental, the barge and the tugboat encountered rough seas causing water to enter its cargo hold.

It sank around 11:10 p.m. Monday according to Coast Guard officials. All of the six crew members of the tugboat were accounted for.

Holcim plant bought the sludge from Petron for P48 million or P8 a kilogram, intending to use it to fire up its cement manufacturing.

Ravanera said Holcim plant, Petron and barge owners will be named respondents if they file legal action for the environmental mess.

He said they found that M/B Ras was designed to transport grains not hazardous wastes and not permitted to sail in open aters like the Visayan sea between Guimaras and Mindanao Island .

Ravanera said they are waiting for the results of the laboratory test done by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources on the waters 6.4 kilometers off Plaridel town where M/B Ras sank, to see if it is contaminated.

Ravanera said they are also closely monitoring any oil presence in the rich fishing ground of Panguil Bay in Misamis Occidental.

Coast Guard officials had earlier opposed the use of barges in the transport of oil sludge from Guimaras but the Maritime Industry Authority overruled it.