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Guimaras Oil Spill Incident: Environmental Problem (Coursework Sample)


Provide an environmental problem and propose a solution

Guimaras Oil Spill Incident
The oil spill incident that happened in Guimaras on August 11, 2006 left the island’s residents completely devastated. In its way to deliver 530 000 gallons or 2.4 million liters of oil in the Southern island of Mindanao, the M/V Solar I, the oil tanker chartered by Petron, the largest oil refiner in the Philippines, sank during a violent storm pouring its 200 000 liters of oil into the Guimaras Strait near the provinces of Guimaras and Negros Occidental (WWF, 2006).
The recklessness of the crew to monitor the amount of fuel to be contained causes the possibility of overloading, since allegations stated that the tanker only has the capacity of 1.2 million liter (Toms, 2006). According to Marine Insight, bunkering is a dangerous operation and requires outmost care and alertness as possibility of oil spill and fire incident are high. In the procedure of bunkering, the chief engineer is liable at calculating and checking the tanks to be filled and the amount of fuel to be contained to prevent overloading (Kaushik, 2010).
This incident left the coast of the Guimaras Island contaminated which led to the devastation of livelihoods of the residents. Living off of fishing as their main livelihood, the oil-spill has affected them both in economic and environmental aspects (Nava, 2012; Tan & Pulhin, 2012). The oil spill has also reached neighboring barangays in the area and it led to a joint action to lend help by collecting oil from the water (Newman, 2015).
Its environmental effect included the degradation of the ecosystem and marine life. The spill has also been reported to have reached the Guimaras Strait which is believed to house mangrove forests, numerous marine sanctuaries and untouched coral reefs. It also served as fishing grounds as well as tourist destinations. The damage in coral reefs and mangrove forests would take several years to restore and this is alarming for the residents, fishermen, and some concerned experts and authorities (WWF, 2006). It has been said that it was the worst oil spill in the history of the country. Not only has it threatened marine life but it has affected the ability of the living organisms to proliferate thus also threatening the growth of new organisms. Of course, the Petron Corporation has been held accountable for the oil spill and its effects, and is expected to immediately take action through the collection, and appropriate and legal disposal of oil (Balena, 2014; Newman, 2015).
Various studies and action plans were conducted regarding the current state of the Guimaras oil spill and steps to take in order to rehabilitate the affected areas. Since the incident, locals, experts, concerned citizens, and authorities are still building up on these to bring light to the proper handling of the body of water and the organisms living in it (Nava, 2012; Balena, 2014).
Following the ill-fated event of the Guimaras oil spill are the severe impacts of the oil slick to the affected natural resource. The oil slick extremely affected the Taklong Island National Marine Reserve which houses various marine animals and serves as feeding and breeding ground for several aquatic species (Filipino Executive Council of Greater Philadelphia [FECGP], 2006). In addition to this, the spill’s impacts into the mangroves in the area were a significant problem because mangroves are ecologically important and yet their nature and presence are also highly susceptible to the effects of oil spills (Hoff et al., 2002, as cited in Yender, Stanzel, & Lloyd, 2008). The existence of mangrove plantations is vital to the ecosystem because this "provides critical habitat for juvenile fish and invertebrates, stabilize shorelines, regulate flooding, recycle nutrients, and provides a protective buffer zone from storm events such as tropical storms and tsunamis" (Yender et al., 2008, p. 78). According to Abbie Ramos of WWF-Philippines (as cited in World Wide Fund for Nature [WWF], 2006), shorelines are the most vulnerable to the oil spills in the ocean and once the spill reaches the oceanfront, mangrove forests and coral reefs will be in danger and it will take years for their recovery. In addition to this, the oil slick that happened in the province resulted to the threatening of the marine life and biodiversity in the island as well as endangered marine animals including species of turtles such as the green and hawksbill turtles, dugong, and various cetacean species (WWF, 2006).
Moreover, the unfortunate disaster lead to the disruption of small-scale commercial fishing actions and subsistence of the members of the communities affected by the oil spill (Yender et al., 2008). Not only the marine biodiversity and ecological balance and nature were affected, but also negatively influencing its bearing into the society. Fishing nets that were used by the local fishermen for their fishing activities were oiled and eventually destroyed. They were not able to switch their materials for new ones because they did not have the means to acquire different replacements (Yender et al., 2008). Health issues and problems in the communities also arose alongside subsistence dilemmas in the province. Accompanied with the oil spill incident were news concerning contamination of fishes from the entire affected areas. Perception of the public regarding the contamination of fishes contributed to the unwillingness of the fishermen to harvest seafood therefore affecting the marketplaces and rates in Guimaras as well as in other nearby provinces (Yender et al., 2008). Furthermore, health risks that came along the oil spill occurrence had been monitored by the Department of Health (DOH) in the affected areas (GMANews.TV, 2007). According to the news report of GMANews.TV, the provincial government of Guimaras had estimated number of cases of at least 4,000 households that had complained of having "respiratory illness, dizziness, dermatitis, and stomachaches" and 97% out of the 594 examined individuals had suffered diseases as a result to their exposure to bunker oil (2007). Additionally, studies also showed that out of 9 water samples that were tested, 6 of them had raised levels of lead, nickel, and arsenic (GMANews.TV, 2007).
Evidently, the oil slick had highly affected the Guimaras Island and its municipalities. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA, 2006) situation report no. 2, there were 46 barangays that were affected in six municipalities in the provincial island. In line with this, 39 more municipalities in the neighboring provinces were also threatened with the oil spill. Specifically, the office also reported other impacts in the province including the following: "823.5 hectares of fishponds, 1,143.45 hectares of DENR Marine Reserve, 245 km of coastline, 1,128 hectares of mangrove area, 16 sq km of coral reef area, and 58 hectares of seaweed plantation" (OCHA, 2006). The drastic effects of the oil spill incident in the Guimaras Island had manifested and severely affected the natural state of marine and social environment of the area. And as the eco-region coordinator of the WWF-Philippines Dr. Jose Ingles pointed out, the damage and effects of the oil spill case could be felt for at least two generations (FECGP, 2006). Thus this further manifests that the scarring of the marine ecosystem and threatening of the natural resources definitely hit and affect the world critically.
There is a need for proper understanding to come up with appropriate solutions that will cover both the prevention and response dimensions in confronting of the Guimaras oil spill. In any disaster, the question on "who is responsible" is always brought out to the given leading agency expected to respond and addressed the issue. Basically, the Philippine Coast Guard (PGC) is the primary agency responsible for pollution due to ships under international regulations, by virtue of its mandate in marine environmental protection (4th Asia Pacific Heads of Maritime Safety Agencies Forum, 2000). Some solutions will be discussed according to the PGC’s roles and responsibilities in coordinating efforts and resources in Guimaras Island.
The PGC formulates a mechanism which prevents, mitigates, or eliminates the increasing damage of the marine ecosystem as a result of pollution. This mechanism is called National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) which "seeks to protect the environment from the damaging effects of oil spills and other hazardous waste substances by providing a coordinated response mechanism for combating oil spills using the combined resources of the private sector and the government. It also promotes the coordination and direction of national and local response system and the developments of the local government and private capabilities to handle such spills. The plan covers all the sea, ports, harbors, inland waters and their tributaries and their adjoining shorelines within the territorial jurisdiction of the country" (cited in the 4th Asia Pacific Heads of Maritime Safety Agencies Forum, 2000).
The PGC sprayed a large amount of chemical dispersants, which could help keep the oil from reaching the shoreline. PGC said that the use of oil spill chemical dispersants is standard procedure in the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan. However, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said that it was hazardous to human health and the environment, even it hastened the cleanup. It should be disallowed as the immediate response and not to be used in any nursing, spawning, life-sustaining habitat in the marine ecosystem (Baleña, 2014). This chemical dispersal is questioned by scientific community.
Upon the request of the PCG, the Greenpeace International made a 3-day side trip to Iloilo as its "Defending the Oceans" world tour to help transport donated relief goods and oil containment e...
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