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Groups demand day of reckoning for RDC and SMC

Protect VIP, a network of residents, fisherfolk, youth, civil society, people’s organizations, faith-based and multisectoral groups trooped to the House of Representatives on Monday as the oil spill affecting the Verde Island Passage and surrounding communities hits its third-month mark, decrying the inaction on holding RDC Reield Marines Services (RDC) and San Miguel Corporation (SMC) accountable as polluters.

RDC owns the sunken vessel MT Princess Empress while SMC-subsidiary SL Harbor Bulk Terminal Corporation is the vessel's charterer. SMC chairperson Ramon Ang also revealed earlier that SMC is among the owners of the spilled industrial oil.

“This national disaster has been going on for three long months, but we fear that it is still not being treated as one. While the government dilly-dallies in exacting accountability and justice, the damage to Verde Island Passage’s ecosystem and resulting impacts on stakeholders continue to worsen. Companies responsible for this must be punished,” said Father Edwin Gariguez, lead convenor of Protect VIP and an awardee of the prestigious Goldman Prize.

Protect VIP attended the Joint Hearing of the Committees on Ecology and Natural Resources held on the same day to register their disappointment with the lack of sanctions for RDC and SMC and the lack of urgency in pushing them to deliver compensations owed to affected sectors.

“It is not only oil that continues to leak into the VIP but also our culture of impunity. I stand here as one with my hometown of Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, one of the hard-hit towns by the oil spill and fishing bans, in demanding that RDC and SMC be held liable for their actions. For 90 days, they managed to evade any form of accountability. They don’t even have the courtesy of properly showing their faces in Congress hearings while fisherfolk representatives travel far and long to attend. Mahiya naman kayo, RDC at SMC,” said Leody De Guzman of Partido Lakas ng Masa.

“We must not let these polluters go scot-free. At this time of ecological and climate crises and increasing loss of wildlife, one of the most biodiverse marine ecosystems in the world is in peril. Curiously, our agencies seem to refuse to lift a finger in exacting liability from those responsible. They must face their day of reckoning for the damage they wrought on the environment and the people's livelihood," said Gerry Arances, co-convenor of Protect VIP.

Protect VIP’s action in front of the House of Representatives features symbols of marine animals stained with oil to convey their demand for justice.

“Today we stand in front of the Congress bearing symbols of the VIP and the livelihoods stained by the culprits behind this oil spill. Despite clear violations and disruption, justice remains elusive. We challenge our lawmakers to set a precedent in holding polluting corporations to account, and to side with communities and the environment for once,” added Gariguez.



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