120 families in Iloilo relocated as oil spill cleanup seen to last 15 days

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 6) – About 120 households have been relocated from the area surrounding Iloilo Strait where thousands of liters of bunker fuel spilled last week, with barge owner AC Energy Philippines on cleanup mode for the next two weeks.

The Ayala-led firm told the Philippine Stock Exchange on Monday that it has contained the oil spill at 10 p.m. of Friday, July 3, about seven hours after the incident occurred off the waters of Barrio Obrero in Iloilo City.

AC Energy's power barge 102 was the source of the oil spill. The Philippine Coast Guard said last week that more than 40,000 liters of oil were discharged into open waters due to an explosion of the barge at sea. The barge can carry up to 200,000 liters of fuel at full capacity.

AC Energy said initial findings showed that oil spill was triggered by the ignition of fuel stored in the barge, which damaged the tank. The company added that strong ocean waves initially made it hard to contain the spillage. It took 170 personnel of the firm and the Coast Guard, assisted by multilayered spill booms from Petron and Global Business Power Corporation to contain the leakage, while additional skimming equipment was brought in from another AC Energy barge and from Shell Philippines to fast-track the recovery of floating residue.

Maritime services firm Harbor Star has been tapped to complete the cleansing of the waters and the coastline.

"Clean-up is estimated to be completed in 10 to 15 days," the firm said in a disclosure. "We are committed to exert all available means to clean-up any remaining residue as soon as possible and support the affected communities."

AC Energy added that families residing near the site of the spill have been temporarily transferred to the Barangay Obrero Elementary School to protect them from possible fumes, with provisions for food, healthcare, protective gear, and other necessities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PCG said Sunday that it will investigate the incident and will file criminal charges against the owner of the power barge if necessary.