‘To err is human’. Oil Spills have frequented the seas for as long as man can remember. The Kuwaiti Oil Fires in 1991 spilled 136,000 tonnes of crude oil into the sea, the Gulf War Oil Spill in 1991 almost 1,000 tonners, and the Deepwater Horizon in 2010 almost 590 tonnes – these are just some of the worst oil spills in history. Mostly marine oil spills, it is defined as the ‘release of liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment, especially to the marine ecosystem’.
In the country, specifically in the region, the Guimaras Oil Spill in 2006 was considered as the worst oil ever recorded. Oil Tanker MT Solar 1 sank off the coast of Guimaras and Negros Islands and released more than two million liters of bunker fuel – around 500,000 liters of oil – into the gulf. The incident caused grave ramifications – not only to the livelihood of nearby residents but also to the marine sanctuaries and reserves that sheltered a variety of flora and fauna.
The most recent oil spill happened in Iloilo last July 03, around 48,000 liters of oil infected Iloilo waters after an explosion happened at a local power barge – Power Barge 102, owned by AC Energy Corporation located in Zone 03 Brgy. Obrero, Lapuz. According to authorities, around 1,200 square meters were affected by the incident. No casualties were reported but families were evacuated from nearby areas due to the fumes.
AC Energy takes the lead, defies the odds
Apart from government initiatives, AC Energy Corporation took the lead in the containment, cleanup, and rehabilitation of the oil spill. The oil spill was contained by 10pm after its explosion around 3pm – this is due to the quick deployment of 170 personnel who worked together with other authorities in the field.
“Further to the initial assessment of the accident involving Power Barge 102, we wish to update that the oil spill had been fully contained since Friday, July 03, at around 10:00pm. The rapid deployment of roughly 170 personnel of AC Energy Philippines, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Petron Corp., and Global Business Power Corp., who sent their oil skimmers and multilayered spill booms to support the equipment of the Power Barges, facilitate the immediate clean-up effort,” excerpts from the official statement released by AC Energy.
Families (around 325 households) were evacuated and have been provided for in the entire duration of their stay. The company also engaged the services of Harbor Star, a maritime service provider, to aid in the cleanup of both coastal shores and offshore areas. Another third-party engagement involves marine scientist consultants of AECOM tasked to conduct investigation, assessments, create trajectory models, and form an environment impact study detailing the effects of the recent oil spill.
With collaborative efforts spearheaded by AC Energy, shoreline cleanup activities were organized involving 900 volunteers from different barangays who have heeded the call to help. Plant Operations Head Gabby Mejia, together with his team, continues to coordinate efforts with the local government of both Iloilo and Guimaras to manage the effects of the oil spill.
To date, AC Energy have completed the recovery of oil totaling to 261,637 liters representing 95% of the spill whereas the remaining 5% is said to have evaporated or carried to the shore. The recovery was completed 8 days after the oil spill incident. Shoreline cleanup is still ongoing and is around 50% to 90% in the completion. On land cleanup has progressed and evacuated families have gradually returned to their homes.
Longer Rehabilitation for Mangroves. According to AC Energy, around 89 hectares of mangroves have been affected. However, the company vows to engage in long term rehabilitative efforts to restore mangroves to its former state. AC Energy is working hand-in-hand with the DENR along with mangrove experts on treatment and rehabilitation of affected areas.