Tuesday, August 29, 2006

GUIMARAS: Ecological Timebomb

Guimaras has been known for its natural bounty and its beautiful beaches. Like many of our nation's provinces, its inhabitants rely on the sea for their livelihood. Tourism has also been booming since people from the the cities discovered its pristine beaches.

Late July and early August saw a barrage of storms and unrelentless rain hit the country. August 11 was the fateful day that MV Solar I sank 24 kms. off the island of Guimaras. With a cargo of 2 million liters of bunker fuel, it now has turned the once beautiful coastline to a sea of oil. Coral reefs, magroves and whitesand beaches now tainted by the black gold. Residents and NGOs had mobilized themselves into a cleanup brigade and races against time to save whatever could be saved.

But it seems the government has once again turned a blind eye to the catastrophe that threatens to engulf the entire Visayan region. Just like the case of the repratriating our OFWs from Lebanon, the government continues to move at its own snail-like pace. Refusing to admit that funds are not coming, GMA continues to give lip service intstead of mobilizing the vast resources of government. The U.N. has manifested its intention to help save Guimaras and pledged $16 million in the cleanup effort.

While weeks have passed, the government's only action was to the declare a state of national calamity. People on the ground can only do so much with whatever resources they can muster. First Response's limited funding is fast dwindling. Dispersants being sprayed by the coastguard cannot cope with the volume of oil still leaking from the sunken tanker. Petron, the cargo's owner has not done much and like the government, its only response to the crisis is minimal. Sunshine Maritime, Solar I's owner has not done much either.

From hair salons to simple folks have lent their hand in trying to prevent the oil spill from creating more devastation. But the three entities which has the most responsibility has offered nothing. The people had taken the initiative, what else does these three want. Or they are really not concerned with the nightmare the people of Guimaras now face. Winds and waves has caused the spill to widen its destruction, it now threatens most of Visayas. Fertile seabeds, coral reefs and other marine sanctuaries are in danger of of being decimated by this impending calamity of unimanginable proportions. What the people want to see now is government response and action. Mere statements and press releases will not stop the spill. Photo-ops will do much less.

Its obvious she does not want to touch her remaining funds to be used for her big Cha-Cha push. This is the reason why she continues to stall and hopes that the international community would take notice and spend for the cleanup instead. How callous this administration is. While they continue to point fingers and discuss courses of "action", the ecological timebomb continues to tick. It might be too late for anyone to do anything.

*Ellen Tordesillas has more to say about this. Click here and here.