First, the forest fires in Indonesia that caused a deadly haze to descend on Singapore and Malaysia. And now an oil spill disaster in Thailand and the Philippines. This is turning out to be a bad year for the environment.
About 50,000 liters of crude oil spilled into the Gulf of Thailand on July 27 from a pipeline operated by PTT Global Chemical Plc. The oil slick reached Samet island off Rayong province which is a popular tourist destination. PTT immediately apologized and vowed to help in the rehabilitation of the area.
Local fishing families said that their livelihoods were gravely affected by the disaster because restaurants operating in the famous tourist island have refused to buy fish products from them. Motorbike and taxi rental shops have also suffered because of dwindling tourist arrivals.
PTT claimed that the “emergency situation” has been “terminated” already through a clean-up operation that removed 99 percent of the oil slick. But civil society groups are not convinced and have accused the company of disclosing insufficient information about the real impact of the oil spill on the environment.
“Since the incidence has occurred, PTT GC has insisted that the situation is not worrying and is containable. The lack of disclosure as to potential impacts on the environment and people has left public in the dark as far as the harmful situation is concerned,” the groups said in a joint statement.
They wanted PTT to explain the real reasons for the pipeline leakage and in particular discuss the chemical dispersants they used to remove the oil sludge. They also urged the government “to enforce applicable criminal and civil provisions to bring the perpetrators to justice and to ensure that such incidence shall not happen again.”
According to environmental groups, there have been more than 200 oil spill disasters in Thailand in the past three decades.
Less than two weeks after the bursting of an oil pipeline in Thailand, another oil spill disaster hit the region when a leak in an underwater pipeline of Petron Corp. poured 500,000 liters of diesel into the waters of Manila Bay. It affected four towns in Cavite, the most populous province in the Philippines located south of Manila.
It took Petron several days before it apologized and claimed responsibility for the disaster.
“We sincerely apologize and assure all the communities affected that we will strive to resolve the situation at the soonest possible time. We will pursue proper remediation and clean-up of the areas affected, aiming to restore the means of livelihood of the local communities,” said Petron President Lubin B. Nepomuceno.
But for green groups, the Cavite oil spill is a grim reminder of Petron’s dirty record. According to reports, Petron also caused an oil spill in the same area three years ago. The company also caused the worst oil spill disaster in the country’s history seven years ago:
“Exactly seven years after the worst maritime oil disaster in the Philippines caused by Petron in the province of Guimaras, the same oil giant has caused a repeat performance in Manila Bay with yet another oil spill affecting several towns in Cavite province. It’s the same story over again: fish and shellfish kills, affected coral reefs, and immediate impacts on the health and livelihood of coastal communities,” said Kalikasan PNE, a local environmental group.
Indeed, Southeast Asia is vulnerable to the harsh impact of climate change, but this year’s environmental disasters in the region – the deadly haze and oil spill – are primarily and directly caused by irresponsibility.