[Blueboard] Newsbriefs 23 August Afternoon

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan slb at admu.edu.ph
Wed Aug 23 17:40:19 PHT 2006

Newsbriefs 23 August Afternoon

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan


Arroyo forms task force to oversee oil spill cleanup (Inquirer)

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo formed a task force on Tuesday to oversee the cleanup of the country's worst oil spill and the retrieval of the bunker fuel oil still in the hold of the tanker that sank off Guimaras Island on Aug. 11.

The task force was formed after Ms Arroyo met with Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes, Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza and Philippine Coast Guard chief Vice Admiral Art Gosingan.

Also present at the meeting were Sen. Richard Gordon and officials of Petron Corp.

Joining the defense, environment, transportation departments and the PCG in the task force are the departments of health and energy.

Cruz, head of Task Force Guimaras, said the formation of the group more than two weeks after the disaster did not come late.


Petron will not pay for oil spill (abs-cbnNEWS.com)


Petron Corporation, which is partly owned by the government, on Wednesday said it has no legal obligation to pay for the oil spill cleanup in Guimaras. 


" Petron, as mere cargo owner, did not cause the spill and had no part whatsoever in the operation of the vessel which met the unfortunate incident," a company disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange said.


The company, however, clarified that it has required Sunshine Maritime Corp., owner of the sunken MT Solar 1, to address the oil spill. "[The] responsibility rests with the ship owner who is covered by insurance for an event like this."


It added: "Petron is doing everything possible to contain the spill and clean up the areas where the oil has contaminated the coastlines and inlets as well as in the conduct of relief operations." 


The company also said it has not "received any formal notices or request with regard to the news reports."


Petron came up with the rejoinder after published reports said that the Philippine Coast Guard will require the company and Sunshine to post a bond of P100 million to pay for cleanup operations.


As of last report, Petron said it will shoulder the expenses for the cleanup.


The government's Task Force Guimaras, composed of Coast Guard, civil defense and transportation officials, said it has withdrawn the bond requirement for Petron.


As of Monday Petron said that clean-up operations in two barangays in Nueva Valencia town in Guimaras have been completed. The company estimated that it will take 30 to 45 days for the cleanup to be completed. 


The firm also said it has tapped a Japanese salvage ship to conduct an underwater survey to erase speculation that more oil has leaked from the vessel. 


Nicasio Alcantara, Petron chairman and CEO, said that Fukada Salvage & Marine Works Co., Ltd is equipped with state of the art monitoring equipment that can provide images of Solar 1, which is estimated to be under 640 meters of water. 


"While our aerial surveys indicate that the leak has stopped, we have been gravely concerned about the possibility that the oil remaining in the vessel will continue to be released into the environment. With the arrival of ship we hope to establish the real condition of Solar 1 and put to rest all this speculation," Alcantara said in a statement.


On August 11 Solar 1 went down in bad weather off Guimaras, spewing oil that has devastated beaches, reefs and marine reserves. Two of its crews are still missing. 


Only one of the ship's 10 compartments is known to have burst so far, emptying its 50,000 gallons of industrial fuel oil into the sea.


US, Japan help to stop oil spill disaster (AFP)


NUEVA VALENCIA, Guimaras - Japanese and US experts on Wednesday were helping in efforts to contain the Philippines' worst oil spill as the Coast Guard warned of a "looming ecological timebomb." 


Authorities have been struggling to get help since the Solar 1 tanker sank off the island of Guimaras on August 11 and discharged 50,000 gallons of industrial oil into the sea.


They are now trying to decide whether to refloat the vessel or instead siphon off the roughly 450,000 gallons of oil still on board the ship, which is sitting on the bottom of the ocean. 


Lieutenant-Commander Joseph Coyme, Coast Guard spokesman, described the oil trapped in the Solar 1 as an "ecological time bomb." 


Petron Corp., which chartered the stricken vessel, said in a statement that a Japanese salvage ship had set sail from Okinawa and was expected in Guimaras in around three days time. 


The ship was equipped with seabed scanners and had a remotely operated vehicle that would be able to determine the position and condition of the tanker, Petron said. 


Petron, which has come in for criticism for its slow response to the disaster, said it estimated the tanker was lying in at least 640 meters (2,100 feet) of water, beyond the reach of divers. 


Philippine authorities have said that while waiting for equipment, officials were concentrating on reining in the vast oil slick that has damaged hundreds of kilometers of coastline and washed dead wildlife up onto the sludge-covered beaches. 


The northerly current is now pushing the slick on, threatening huge swathes of mangrove forest and coastline on Negros, the country's fourth-largest island, as well as Panay island on the other side of the Guimaras Strait. 


The spill is already regarded as the worst environmental disaster in the history of the Philippines, stretching more than 10 nautical miles and putting the livelihoods of thousands of poor fishermen at risk. 



A four-member assessment team from the United States coastguard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency also arrived in Manila Tuesday and were heading to Guimaras to help assess the scale of the spill," said US embassy spokeswoman Stacy MacTaggert. 


The disaster has displaced more than 16,000 residents on Guimaras. Around 700 local people are being employed to clean up the beaches. 


Coast Guard and private volunteer vessels are laying booms and spraying dispersant chemicals in an attempt to contain the slick. 


Suspected rebels take dozens of hostages in Zamboanga Sibugay (AFP)


PAGADIAN CITY - Suspected communist guerrillas Wednesday took dozens of people, mostly schoolchildren, hostage after raiding a school in Zamboanga Sibugay, police and local officials said. 


The hostages were taken from a school at Buayan in the south of Mindanao and were being used as human shields against pursuing troops and police, said the regional police director, Chief Superintendent Jaime Karingal. 


Kabasalan town Mayor Nonoy Chu said in a radio interview that 50 suspected NPA guerrillas took an undetermined number of students, teachers and school officials hostage and that security forces were pursuing them. 


Military forces in the area have been conducting operations against communist guerrillas. 


The 7,400-member New People's Army is the guerrilla arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines and has been waging a decades-long Maoist insurgency. 


Although the group engages in extortion and murder of people who refuse to give in to its demands, it has not usually resorted to mass kidnappings.


Socio-economic chief lauds investment firm's bullish outlook of RP (Philstar.com)

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo L. Neri on Tuesday hailed the recognition of a reputable international investment firm of the government's efforts to bring about economic growth. 

"We are happy that international investment firms like Goldman Sachs are giving us positive feedback on the government's activities that ensure the country's economic growth and stability," he said. 

In its Asia Economics Flash report, Goldman Sachs expressed bullishness on the Philippines, citing positive gains in the financial sector and the "tradable services" sector. 

"The turning point came through the fiscal side about two years ago," the report noted, adding the country's "fiscal stabilization story has been dramatic." 

Goldman Sachs recognized the "impressive progress" in structural reforms of the local currency government bond market, with a domestic bond exchange program consolidating 90 outstanding Treasury issues into three liquid benchmarks of three, five and seven years. 

The firm also noted that the Treasury instituted more discipline to the cash-flow management of government finances. 

Palace to respect bishop's decision to decline joining probe (Philstar.com)

Malacañang said Wednesday that they will respect the decision of Batanes Bishop Camilio Gregorio to decline joining the Melo Commission but added that the work will go on. 

Bishop Camilio Gregorio had declined his nomination, citing "more urgent pastoral obligations and in deference to the autonomy of the CBCP (Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines) of which I am a member." 

Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye said in a statement, "We respect the good Bishop's decision although we are saddened by it. We are confident that a replacement as credible and as competent as the good Bishop can be found.' 

"Nevertheless, this will not in any way affect the credibility and effectiveness of the entire Commission as it buckles down to work," Bunye said. 

Earlier, President Gloria Arroyo appealed for her detractors to give the five-man commission headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo a chance to perform its task as an independent body investigating the rash of extra-judicial killings under her administration.


Marathon session set for 'predictable' vote (INQ7.net)

THE House of Representatives has set a marathon session from 4 p.m. Wednesday till the "wee hours" of Thursday to decide the fate of the impeachment case against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

But well before the start of the session House Majority Floor Leader Prospero Nograles said he expected the results to be "predictable," meaning administration lawmakers will again use their overwhelming numerical superiority to kill the complaint in plenary.

As early as 11 a.m. administration supporters gathered at the main gate of the House with banners and streamers condemning pro-impeachment lawmakers. One streamer read, "Escudero, Cayetano, Golez, and Ocampo -- Salot ng Bayan (Curse of the Nation)," referring to Minority Leader Francis Escudero and Deputy Minority Leaders Alan Peter Cayetano, Roilo Golez, and Satur Ocampo.

The foregone outcome and the pro-administration rally drove Gabriela party list Representative Liza Maza to accuse the majority of "Marcosian" tactics.

"The propensity of the allies of Malacañang in Congress to wield the numbers game is evocative of the rubber stamp parliament during Martial Law, as does the 'hakot' (bused in) crowd to simulate support for an isolated, unpopular regime." Maza said in a statement.

"I don't think the results will change," Nograles said, referring to the earlier 56-24 vote in the justice committee to find the complaint insufficient in substance.

The plenary vote is to accept or reject the justice committee report.

"The results are, I think, predictable based on the ratio of the votation in the justice committee report," Nograles said. "I think more or less the ratio of those who will reject and those who will accept the committee report will almost be the same."

In fact, Nograles said he doubted if pro-impeachment solons will get the 51 votes they did last year, which was still way below the 78 needed to override the committee report and transmit the impeachment complaint to the Senate for trial.

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