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Philippines President: Doomed Oil Tanker Sailed Despite Bad Weather; 'Human Error'

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GUIMARAS, The Philippines -- President Arroyo said that the sunken Solar 1 tanker in Guimaras was doomed because its crew insisted on sailing despite bad weather, ABS-CBN News reported Tuesday.

"So whether or not it was double hull or single hull, double bottom or single bottom, it would really capsize because it sailed in rough weather," Mrs. Arroyo told reporters before returning to Manila for meetings with the National Security Council and the Cabinet.

Mrs. Arroyo spent Monday night at Costa Aguada Resort in Sibunag town to assess and at the same time consolidate efforts undertaken by Task Force Guimaras in the cleanup and rehabilitation of the island.

The President vowed to go after and make those responsible pay for the tragedy. She did not elaborate. She, however, had ordered the Department of Justice to look into the oil spill and determine the criminal liability of those involved.

The Philippine Coast Guard's initial investigation showed that the oil spill was caused by human error.

The tanker sank on August 11 after encountering rough seas on the way to Mindanao from Bataan. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of bunker oil went down with it to the sea floor.

No typhoon was in the immediate area of the vessel as it capsized. Weather bureau officials, however, said the southwest monsoon was affecting parts of the Visayas and Mindanao at that time.

Tests ordered

On Monday the President returned to Guimaras to meet with experts who brought scientific data to serve as a guide in making decisions to avoid speculations in addressing the oil spill. She had visited the island on Saturday.

She also directed government experts to examine the quality of water, air and soil contaminated by the oil slick to ensure the health of residents.

The President is scheduled to return to the island on September 6 to assess the conditions of affected residents. Her return visit would also include an update from officials on the status of the sunken vessel.

The underwater survey will be conducted by a Japanese company hired by Petron Corporation to recover the vessel with the help of a remote-operated vehicle.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic resources, meanwhile is set to resume Wednesday its tests on the extent of damage brought by the slick to sea life. Two BFAR vessels are conducting water sampling off the island as of posting time for laboratory examination.

Fish and shellfish caught from Guimaras Strait and Panay Gulf were tested negative of bunker oil contamination during BFAR’s laboratory test on August 24.

Drusila Ong, BFAR director for Region 6, said schools of fish were not contaminated by the spill as these steered clear of the slick unlike aquatic plants and shellfish that were easily exposed.

Ong said an estimated P13.4 million worth of seaweed farms were damaged by the oil spill. The BFAR official also said that province's Puyo Reef, La Paz and Pamanculan islands and Tumalinsinan Point were also affected by the slick.

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