Liabilities of barge owner in oil spill cited

THE owner of the power barge that blew up and spilled fuel oil off the coast of Iloilo City is expected to pay compensation to the coastal communities that suffered economic losses on account of the accidental discharge,  a House leader said on Monday.

“We are also counting on the operator of the power barge – AC Energy Corp. – to pay for the cleanup of the spill,” Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, one-time Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), said.

“The Oil Pollution Compensation Law of 2007, or Republic Act 9483, imposes strict liability for oil pollution damage and guarantees adequate reparation for adversely affected populations, especially those that depend on fishing and seashell harvesting,” said Defensor, chairman of the House committee on public accounts.

Under the law, Defensor said owners of vessels that “cause pollution damage or create a grave and imminent threat of causing such damage,” are liable for:

· Expenses actually incurred in cleanup operations at sea or on shore;

· Costs incurred for preventive measures and further loss or damage caused by such preventive measures;

· Consequential loss or loss of earnings suffered by owners or users of property contaminated or damaged as a direct result of the spill;

· Pure economic loss or loss of earnings sustained by people, even if the property tainted or spoiled by the slick does not belong to them;

· Damage to human health or loss of life as a direct result of the incident; and

· Environmental damage and other reasonable measures of restoration.

“These liabilities are apart from whatever fines may be imposed by the Pollution Adjudication Board on AC Energy for violations of the Clean Water Act of 2004,” Defensor said.

After the cleanup, AC Energy is also expected to rehabilitate the coastal ecosystem ravaged by the spill, Defensor said.

A blast ruptured Power Barge 102’s fuel oil storage tank Friday, spilling some 251,000 liters of petroleum by Saturday morning in the waters off Iloilo’s Barangay Barrio Obrero, according to the Philippine Coast Guard.

Private suppliers like AC Energy have been deploying power barges – self-contained, floating power plants – to help address recurring electricity shortages in the Visayas grid.