Hope – When the Going Gets Tough

Greenpeace, scientists witness devastation at oil spill ground zero

Feature story - August 20, 2006
Scientists and environmental activists onboard the Esperanza today bear witness to the site of the Petron oil spill in order to document environmental impacts of the oil slick in the Guimaras Strait of the central Philippines.

A local fisherman standing ankle deep in oil spilled on the beaches near his home.

The profound impacts to the environment and human beings of the Petron oil spill in Guimaras Strait of the central Philippines will bring long-term irreversible damage effects. Some 50,000 gallons of oil have leaked from the tanker Solar 1, which sanked on August 11. The tanker is resting on the seabed and still has about 450,000 gallons in its hold. To a certain extent, the spill can be cleaned up. However, having it a "real clean-up" and getting everything back to normal is definitely impossible. That is because the vastness of the oil's reach has come too far.

Greenpeace, together with scientists and marine/ecology experts onboard MY Esperanza, arrived on Sunday, August 20, at the oil spill ground. They went ashore to examine the mangrove areas near Taklong marine sanctuary that were totally covered by oil sludge. The extent of damage had already destroyed 454 hectares of mangroves and 58 hectares of seaweed farms. Oil has contaminated 220 kilometers, that is, 136 miles of coastline.

Just imagine how the coastal treasures of the people living in that island province who devoted for its development over the years would be destroyed overnight. The rich marine life, the clear seawater and the long stretches of white beaches will never be the same ever again. Thus, the livelihood of thousands of people dependent on fishing had been destroyed. That is why Greenpeace mobilizes so quickly - helping and conducting an environmental impact study for the Coast Guard because the information that Greenpeace and its partner scientists provide will give them solid basis in continuing their oil spill containment and mitigation work. Still, it will take several months to draw up its report on the full environmental impact of the spill.

The long-term clean-up and support for the affected communities should not be made complicated by a lack of accountability. The government is expected to make sure that Petron and its partners hold accountable for the damages done to the environment and for the economic losses in the island province. About 26,000 people living in that area rely mainly on fishing as a means of livelihood and since more than 1,100 hectares of marine reserves had been destroyed, they need all the support they can get especially from the company accountable for this tragedy. They should hand them the support they need not only when the television cameras are rolling.

The vessel that lies on the seabed should be retrieved as soon as possible so as to prevent further leakage. It is depressing to know that what has happened cannot be undone and it is even more depressing that you're cleaning  up something that comes back again and again. Hope is what there will always be.

View the slideshow

Take a look at the damage that resulted from the worst oil spill in Philippine history.

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