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IOPC payment welcome but not enough compensation for oil spill victims - advocates

Protect VIP, a coalition advocating for the protection of the Verde Island Passage (VIP), welcomed the announcement by Oriental Mindoro Governor Humerlito Dolor that beginning April 15, full payment from the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Fund will be made available to claimants affected by year-old MT Princess Empress oil spill. 


The group, however, stressed that the payment is but a reprieve and remains insufficient to compensate for the substantial loss in income of the oil spill-affected communities in Oriental Mindoro.


“We welcome the disbursement of IOPC funds, but this is far less than the actual socioeconomic loss suffered by fisherfolk and communities. The oil spill hit its one year mark with only 627 out of 6,000 in the town of Pola alone having received their first tranche of compensation. There has been too long a waiting game for compensation that does not even add up to what must be rightfully received by those affected,” said Father Edwin Gariguez, Lead Convenor of Protect VIP.


The oil spill is estimated to have caused a total of Php 41.2 billion worth of environmental damage and socioeconomic loss, according to a study by the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED). 


“The oil spill left at least 1.1 billion in direct damages to the fisherfolk communities in Oriental Mindoro. From our estimates, each fisherfolk is owed amounts ranging from Php 19,500 to Php 650,000 only for the entire year of their lost income. This does not even begin to cover loss bound to continue for years to come from lingering effects of this oil spill. Just compensation is not up for debate. At the same time, the local government of Mindoro and surrounding provinces must take caution how vast damages amount to if the VIP is not sufficiently protected,” said Gerry Arances, Executive Director of CEED.


Meanwhile, Pola Mayor Jennifer Cruz confirmed from IOPC that there will be no disbursement

on April 15 and they are yet to give a definitive answer as to when the payment will be released.


Gariguez also warned that compensation claims should not have any quit claims which waives the claimants' rights to demand more compensation in the future.


“The affected communities must reserve their right to demand the compensation they deserve, and they should be able to claim compensation without the fear of it being the last. We are not only accounting for their lost income for the past year – the affected communities will continue to pay the price of the oil spill in years to come. The local government should ensure that no quitclaims will be required upon receipt of compensation.” Gariguez added.


Gariguez also called for polluters behind the spill to be held accountable for damages. According to the Oil Pollution Compensation Act (R.A. No. 9483, Section 7), the shipowner or its insurance company must be held liable for paying for compensation.


“The provisional payment so far promised to affected communities comes purely from the IOPC funds. The polluters behind this tragedy, meanwhile, have yet to spend a dime to compensate the thousands they robbed of a living. Shipowner RDC Rield Marines Service and charterer San Miguel Corporation have a moral obligation to take responsibility,” Gariguez concluded.


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