Petron Corp. is negotiating with a Singaporean company to bring in advanced technology that would determine the exact location of the oil tanker that sank off Guimaras island and siphon off the remaining bunker oil still in the vessel.
Lori Tan of the World Wide Fund said Petron, which chartered the ill-fated M/T Solar I, will bring in deep-sea contractors who will use a side scan zoner to determine the wreck’s actual location on the seabed, a remotely piloted submersible to find the leak, and hot tap to siphon the oil that is still contained in the tanker’s hold.
Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes and Tan believe the cleanup might take two years if all the needed technology and assistance arrive soon.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard reported over the weekend that bunker fuel leaking at a fast rate from Solar I has already reached northern Iloilo.
Apart from the island-province, the bunker fuel spill has also reportedly affected at least two beach resorts in Negros Occidental as well as the Taklong Island National Marine Reserve located at the southern tip of Guimaras island which serves as a sanctuary for hundreds of endangered species of fish, sea grasses, mangroves and hard corals.
The government has already put Guimaras island and affected towns in Negros Occidental under a state of calamity and sought help from Japan and Indonesia in containing what is considered as the country’s worst oil spill.
In Guimaras alone, over 15 percent of the province’s 155,000 population — or roughly 23,000 people — lost their livelihood with fishermen in hardest-hit town of Nueva Valencia now relying on relief goods for survival.
Meanwhile, a fisherfolk group said yesterday close to P300 million worth of livelihood for more than 10,000 fishermen have been lost since Solar I sank off Guimaras island on Aug. 11.
The oil slick coming from the ship has split into several branches that have drifted into different directions, he added.
Jarder said the presence of oil sheens has been confirmed in the seas off Bay-an, Ajuy in northern Iloilo, more than 24 nautical miles from where the tanker sank.
Environmental watchdog Greenpeace began yesterday assessing the damage caused by the country’s worst ever oil spill amid reports that the captain of the ill-fated tanker was not properly trained to handle the ship.