Oil barge carrying Guimaras oil sludge sinks in MisOcc

The barge “M/B Raz” was being towed by a tugboat enroute to the Holcim cement plant in Lugait, Misamis Oriental when it was buffeted by huge waves 11:10 p.m. Monday, Coast Guard officials said.

The crew are reportedly all accounted for.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Cagayan de Oro, fearing another environmental mishap, has deployed a team to where the vessel sank 6.4 kilometers off Plaridel, a fishing town.

“There were reports of a thin layer of oil, like a rainbow on the water, not the thick sludge,” Misamis Occidental Gov. Loreto Leo Ocampos said.

The barge was hired by oil refiner Petron to carry oil debris from Solar 1, which sank in rough seas in Guimaras in August, leaking 500,000 liters of bunker oil that affected 40,000 people and 200 kilometers of coastline.

Former Sen. Heherson Alvarez, Asia vice president of the London-based Action for the Protection of the Seas (ACOPS), said Holcim bought the oil debris from Petron for P48 million or P8 per kilo.

Alvarez said the Environmental Management Bureau allowed Holcim to buy 6,000 metric tons of oil debris from Solar 1 and that 3,600 metric tons were already shipped to the cement plant where it was used as an alternative fuel for its cement production.

“Holcim Cement will be incinerating six tons of oil debris of hardened black patches of bunker oil called tar balls,” Alvarez said in a statement sent to MindaNews.

He said tar balls contained asphaltenes and noxious resins dangerous to human health and the environment.

BFAR Region 10 Dir. Arlene Pantanosas said an environmental disaster with the magnitude of Solar 1 will adversely affect the fragile coastal ecosystem in Plaridel and Misamis Occidental where some of the more advanced and successful marine coastal conservation efforts are located.