Barge carrying oil waste sinks in central Philippines

MANILA (AFP) – A barge carrying debris from the Philippines’ worst-ever oil spill has sunk in rough seas off the southern island of Mindanao, officials said.

The barge sank on Monday night off Misamis Occidental province carrying 59,000 sacks of rock and sand, oil firm Petron Corp said Tuesday.

Petron was contracted to ship debris from clean-up operations after the tanker Solar I sank off the central island of Guimaras on August 11 carrying 500,000 gallons (2.27 million liters) of industrial fuel oil.

Ten of thousands of gallons of oil spilled into the sea destroying a marine reserve, local fishing grounds and coating stretches of coastline with black sludge.

Two crew members are still missing and presumed dead from the incident, which a maritime inquiry blamed on overloading and inadequate training of the ship’s captain Norberto Aguro.

“The composition of the debris carried by the barge is mostly sand and rocks with some traces of oil,” Petron said in a statement.

Petron said debris “is highly unlikely to pose a danger to communities, shorelines or marine life.”

Petron health, safety and environment manager Carlos Tan said a contingency plan was already in place.

“A tugboat is patrolling around the sink site and so far, no oily sheen or debris has been seen on the surface,” Tan said.

The 998-ton Solar I remains on the seabed with thousands of gallons of bunker oil still in its hold. Efforts to siphon it off have been delayed by bad weather.

Greenpeace campaigner Beau Baconguis said: “Whether this latest incident is due to gross negligence or plain stupidity, Petron must be held accountable by the Philippine government to the fullest extent of the law.

“This is truly deplorable, and betrays once again Petron’s serious lack of diligence in ensuring that the company’s operations are safe and secure.”

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