BULALAKAW - Pandan Antique Newsletter
Official Publication of
Pandan Antique Foundation and Pagtatap Foundation, Inc.
By Raymund Nonato V. Gumboc, Philippines
The oil spill from a power barge owned by the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR) off the shore of Semirara island in the town of Caluya, Antique, which happened last December had been the talk of our Quantitative Management class for several weeks. My professor, a respected resource economist, was tapped to evaluate the extent of the damage of the oil spill to the environment and livelihood of the residents of the villages on the island. Reports revealed that about 250 hectares of mangrove forests were contaminated, along with approximately 50 square meters of fish sanctuaries, sea grasses, coral reefs, seaweed farms and other marine life.

The town of Caluya is known for its vast marine and natural resources. It is famous for its seaweed farms and native "tatus," a coconut crab delicacy from its mangrove forests where the "Tatusan festival" was derived from. The Semirara Coal Corporation is considered to be the biggest coal mine in Asia.

"It was an accident… There were really strong winds and waves at that time, forcing the power barge to run aground," a NAPOCOR official said. Accidents do happen, and such is very damaging.

Oil spills have a tremendous impact on coastal activities and marine life. They greatly disturb the habitat and upset the delicate balance of marine plants and animals. They could impair the marine life's ability to grow, reproduce, and perform their many functions. Their toxic and tainting effects also interfere with the daily activities of the residents. It is very sad to think of what has happened to the people of Caluya who largely depend on the marine resources for their livelihood and existence. We can only begin to surmise at such devastation.

I can't help but relate the oil spill incident with the issue of the proposed diesel power plant in my beloved town of Pandan, Antique, in the year 2002. We strongly opposed the transfer of the 110 Megawatts Bunker-Fired Diesel Power Plant from Pinamucan, Batangas, by NAPOCOR to Pandan. Yes, it is the same NAPOCOR that caused the oil spill in Semirara. Bunker-Fired Power Plants extend offshore. One of the major reasons of our opposition was the danger of oil spills. I thank God that the proposal did not go through. I don't want the Semirara oil spill catastrophe to happen in my town, even the possible danger of it happening, and destroy our marine sanctuaries. I don't want to stain our pristine white beach.

I hope that the Semirara oil spill is an eye-opener for our government officials to seriously consider the use of renewable energy. The danger that the same accident will happen again is always inherent. We can help prevent this if we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Our country has a lot of renewable energy sources such as the sun, streams, wind, geothermal and natural gases, which are yet to be explored.

We are living in a world of depleting resources. We have to take conscious and determined efforts to protect and conserve them for the future generations to enjoy.
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