Owner, officials of thermal energy firm in Iloilo City oil spill charged

Published July 11, 2020, 12:05 PM

by Betheena Unite

A criminal complaint has been filed against the owner and officials of the power barge that exploded in the waters off Barrio Obrero, Lapuz District, Iloilo City, causing a massive oil spill affecting several communities.

The oil spill from a power barge owned by AC Energy Philippines in Iloilo City has reached the island province of Guimaras, which is seen in the background. (Tara Yap / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

The Philippine Coast Guard on Saturday said that it has filed a criminal complaint against AC Energy Inc. and its concerned officials for violation of Section 107 of Republic Act (RA) 8550 or The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, as amended by RA 10654, on aquatic pollution at the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.

“Commander Joe Mercurio of the Coast Guard Station-Iloilo, together with the Coast Guard Legal Affairs Team, found sufficient evidence to prove the negligence of said thermal energy company, its President, John Eric Francia, and Power Barge No. 102 Plant Manager, Roberto Gambito, that led to the oil spill incident in Iloilo City on July 3, 2020,” the Coast Guard said.

The explosion of the power barge contaminated the coastal areas of about 23 communities in Iloilo City, municipality of Dumangas, and Guimaras, including a one-hectare mangrove forest in Iloilo.

It also displaced about 400 residents.

Under Section 107 of RA 8550, “Upon a summary finding of administrative liability, the AC Energy Inc. and its concerned officers shall be punished with fine of P300,000-P500,000 and an additional fine of P15,000 per day until the violation ceases and the fines are paid.”

A cease and desist order, closure, or suspension of the development, construction, or facility, or cessation of operations, or disconnection of water supply may also be imposed against the company.

The order may be issued ex parte pending resolution of the case.

Upon conviction by a court of law, the offenders may face six years and one day to 12 years imprisonment and a fine twice the amount of the administrative fine, and an additional fine of P15,000 per day until the violation ceases and the fines are paid.

Vice Admiral George Ursabia Jr., Coast Guard commandant, stressed that the incident should be “a reminder to all industry stakeholders that even the slightest negligence can pose direct or indirect threat on the health and safety of the people, as well as living and non-living aquatic resources.”

“The PCG, as a law enforcement body in marine environmental protection, will ensure that the failure of one company serves as a relevant lesson to others. We need everyone’s cooperation to protect and conserve our limited marine resources,” Ursabia added.