MANILA, The Philippines -- An official of Petron Corporation on Thursday said the company would not leave the Guimaras area until it completely cleans the sea and coastlines of the bunker oil that is leaking from a chartered tanker that sank off the island about two weeks ago.
"For us, it's a moral responsibility to help the people clean up (the oil spill)," said Peter Paul Shotwell, Petron's supply operations and planning manager.
Shotwell made the assurance in a briefing called for by Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, chairman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC). Cruz was appointed to head government's Task Force Guimaras, whose main job is to lead clean-up efforts in the area.
Shotwell said a team from a Japanese firm, Fukuda Salvage and Marine Works, is due to arrive in Guimaras on Saturday or Sunday to retrieve the sunken ship, motor tanker Solar I. He said the team has already left Japan.
Shotwell said the firm will be bringing in a vessel, Shinsei Maru, which is equipped with a remote operated vehicle that can search the seabed down to 2,000 meters and take photos to determine a ship's condition underwater.
"That's part of our commitment," said Shotwell, referring to the cleanup and subsequent rehabilitation of areas that have been affected and those that might be affected by the oil spill.
Shotwell said Petron is coordinating with Siliman University (SU), University of the Visayas (UV), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and "they are giving us some help" in the development of a long-term rehabilitation plan. He hoped that the cleanup would be finished in 45 days.
A press statement Shotwell distributed to the media during the briefing said Petron regrets the "unfortunate incident" as it vowed to "take responsibility in addressing the containment and recovery of the oil spill."
Petron said it is hiring 869 people from the affected areas on a daily basis for the cleanup and the number will be increased in the coming days. The figure is on top of the five percent of the total workforce of Petron engaged in the mission.
Cruz asked Petron to adopt measures to prevent the oil spill from spreading to the nearby Visayan Sea and Bantayan Island and other threatened areas. He said he has directed the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to help contain the oil spill.
"Petron has reiterated that it will expend all the efforts and funds to speed up the cleanup and to protect the threatened shorelines in the area and Task Force Guimaras is calling on Petron to continue to speed up the clean-up operations," said Cruz.
He is also asking Petron officials "to provide protective measures to prevent the oil spill from reaching the other shorelines that are threatened. So we're calling on Petron to expedite the clean-up operations."
"I have directed the PCG and I asked Petron to focus some of its efforts on the northern part of Guimaras strait to prevent the oil spill from reaching the Visayan Sea and Bantayan Island," he added.
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