On recommendations of Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commandant Vice Admiral Arthur N. Gosingan, Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro P. Mendoza formed yesterday a national board of marine inquiry (BMI) to conduct a thorough fact-finding investigation on the oil spill off Guimaras Island in Western Visayas — so far the biggest ever reported environmental disaster in the country.
In a press conference held at the PCG headquarters in Port Area, Manila, Gosingan said the creation of the national BMI elevated from a special board of marine inquiry (SBMI) the status of the probe body.
Mendoza named Coast Guard deputy commandant Rear Admiral Danilo A. Abinoja as the national BMI chairman. The members are composed of master mariners, chief engineers, lawyers, and marine environmentalists and other experts in the marine industry.
The proceedings in the BMI probe will be open to members of the media as earlier requested by the Maritime Press Club of the Philippines.
To be subpoenaed to the BMI investigation and hearings are concerned officials of Petron Corp., Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. which owns the sunken MT Solar I, the skipper and crew of Solar I, and their safety officers.
Five towns and 23 barangays in Guimaras have been badly affected. Several areas in Negros Occidental and Panay island, including Iloilo province, were likewise affected.
Guimaras Gov. Joaquin Nava thanked President Arroyo for releasing R10million fund to the province to help affected residents and their livelihood. Negros Occidental and Iloilo will also receive R5 million each for the same purpose. Some 3,700 families have been affected.
The President decided to give financial assistance to the three affected provinces after creating Task Force Guimaras composed of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Transportation and Communications, Department of Energy, Department of Health, and the Philippine Coast Guard.
Petron and Sunshine Maritime Shipping continue to undertake clearing operations in Guimaras together with the PCG Task Force Guimaras headed by Capt. Luis M. Tuason Jr., PCG commander for Western Visayas, and other non-government organizations including Greenpeace Phils.
DoTC gives 72-hour deadline to Guimaras oil spill probe team
Source: Manila Bulletin