Oil companies must pay spills – Philippines

The Filipino government has introduced a law which will require all major companies which ship oil through the island nation's waters to pay into a fund which can be used to tackle future spills.

The Oil Compensation Act has been seen largely as an acknowledgement of criticism over the government’s slow response to a huge spill of the coast of Guimaras last year, the worst in the country’s history (see related story).

The spill occurred when an oil tanker sank off the coast of the idyllic island last August, causing extensive damage to both the sensitive environment and the livelihood of local fishermen.

The remediation took months to complete and was plagued with problems including the sinking of one of the clean-up vessels which went down carrying tens of thousands of sacks full of contaminated sludge.

Under the new act, which came into force on Monday, any company transporting 136,000 tonnes or more of oil each year will have to contribute to the fund which will cover the costs of containment and clean-up operations in the event of a spill.

The official reasoning for this approach is that the blame game which follows a spill under the traditional ‘polluter pays’ principle can cost valuable time and lead to a delayed reaction in tackling the problem.

“The usual finger-pointing on who should shoulder the cost of emergency containment and cleanup operations and for compensating damages to health and livelihood during oil spill incidents is about to end,” said Senator Pia Cayetano, the Bill’s author, in a statement released to the press.

The bill institutes the local mechanism for the prevention, abatement, mitigation and control of oil pollution within the territorial boundaries of the country.”

Sam Bond

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