Independent probe on Iloilo oil spill starts

Published July 7, 2020, 2:45 PM

by Tara Yap

ILOILO CITY Investigators are conducting an independent probe on the explosion at a power barge here last July 3 that caused more than 200,000 liters of oil to leak out at sea.

While spill booms have been installed to contain the oil spill in Iloilo City, the flow of water brings back crude oil to the surface. The oil leaked from a power barge (background) that had its hull torn from a July 3 explosion incident. (Tara Yap/ MANILA BULLETIN)

“We still don’t know why there was an explosion,” said Gabby Mejia, head for plant operations of AC Energy Philippines.

The energy company under the Ayala group flew in a two-man team to specifically determine the root cause of the July 3 explosion of its Power Barge 102.

This came after the Western Visayas regional office of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) reported negligence while work was being done at one of the tanks power barge. It said that someone used acetylene torch, which ignited flammable fumes.

“What the BFP is saying is still premature.  Everything is alleged,” Mejia told Manila Bulletin in an interview Tuesday, July 7.

“We did not want this to happen, but it happened. Now, let’s wait for the proper findings.

Let us give justice to the information that we are providing the public. We have to be certain,” Mejia added.

The independent investigators, both marine engineers with extensive experience in handling international cargo ships, are going to conduct a five-day field work to gather evidence.

Mejia disclosed there was also a suggestion to tap scientists from the University of the Philippines in the Visayas to strengthen factual and scientific findings.

The July 3 incident leaked out around 251,000 liters of bunker fuel that spread to coastal areas of Iloilo City and nearby coastal areas of towns in Iloilo province and Guimaras province.  Clean up operations have collected an estimated 200,000 liters so far.

Meanwhile, Mejia clarified that AC Energy has been cooperating with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources -Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB), Iloilo City government, local village officials, and other partners to address the various issues.