Rizal residents worry over effects of Morong River oil spill

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Solid Cement Corporation, the company allegedly responsible for the oil spill, said the bunker oil spilled into the Teresa-Morong river system that leads to Laguna Lake.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – Residents in Antipolo City, Rizal on Thursday (Sept.10) expressed concern over the possible effects of an oil spill in Teresa-Morong River channel.

They said that the oil spill which happened on Tuesday (September 8) is causing fears over the hazardous effects on people's health and adverse effect on their livelihood.

Oil slicks on the riverbank are seen as traces of the 2,000 liters of bunker oil that spilled from a fuel storage tank owned by a cement company in Antipolo City.

Solid Cement Corporation, the company allegedly responsible for the oil spill, said the bunker oil spilled into the Teresa-Morong river system that leads to Laguna Lake.

“Nagkaroon ng leakage ang isa sa ating mga fuel storage tanks. Unfortunately it was raining heavily, napakalakas din ng hangin. And that triggered the spillage dito sa area,” Solid Cement Corporation Public Affairs Director Chito Maniago said.

[Translation: There was a leakage in one of the fuel storage tanks.  Unfortunately, it was raining heavily and the wind was also strong. And that triggered the spillage here in the area.]

Laguna de Bay Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commander, Lt. Eleizer Ibbarientos, however said that they are trying to find out what happened.

“Either mechanical failure or human error, hindi pa natin ma-finalize yan. But we’re looking into it,” Ibbarientos told CNN Philippines.

Fears for health and environment

Residents of Teresa and Morong towns in Rizal Province fear for their health and the environment.

Alfredo Bernardino, a farmer in Morong, Rizal, showed traces of oil on his short pants. He had crossed the Morong River to check on his rice field.

“Pagka ganon na maitim, wala na, hindi na kami kumukuha,” Bernardino said, worried about his farm’s irrigation.

[Translation: If the water is dark, we can’t do anything. We also don’t get water (from the river).]

CNN Philippines also chanced upon Adonis Toledo, who was fishing in the river.

Toledo said despite the oil spill, he still opted to fish so his family may have something to eat.

“Yun nga po, hindi naming alam baka may lason na yung isda,” said Toledo.

[Translation: Well, we don’t really know if the fish is poisoned.]

Meanwhile, Editha Purificacion, who lives near Teresa River fears they might get sick if the river is not cleaned properly.

“Sana naman malinis ang kailugan para naman ligtas ang kalusugan ng mga tao,” Purificacion said.

[Translation: I hope they will clean the river so that our health won’t be put at risk.]

Ex parte order

The Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) on Thursday issued an Ex-Parte order (EPO) against Solid Cement Corporation in relation to the oil spill.

The order directed the company to stop its operations to prevent further damage to the water sources  caused by the establishment’s violation of the Clean Water Act of 2000.

In the EPO, the LLDA mentioned the need “to immediately prevent undue ecological disturbance, deterioration, and pollution resulting from the oil spill.”

The LLDA also found out in the inspection they conducted that the level of oil and grease in Morong River is higher that the acceptable level.

Possible charges

The PCG said the cement company is in charge of the clean-up operations along the tributary.

Coco nets have been placed along the Teresa-Morong river channel to keep oil from spreading and reaching Laguna Lake.

The Coast Guard has finished inspecting the cement factory, and the river channel.

“Kahit saang incident naman, basta merong ganitong pangyayari na hindi lang sa community kundi sa environment, most likely violations are committed,” Ibarrientos said.

The cement company, meanwhile, said it is ready to face the consequences of the incident.

But for those affected by the oil spill, it's not as easy as filing charges.

Even local officials in Rizal expressed the same sentiments the residents conveyed.

Morong Mayor Armando San Juan told CNN Philippines that the river is a source of food and a part of lifestyle of the people. And the oil spill will certainly have an effect to them.

“Ang mga taga Morong kumakain ng isda. Yung mga bata, halimbawa naliligo, e kung makainom din ng tubig,” said San Juan.

[Translation: Morong residents eat fish. The children, for example, they take a bath in the river and it is unavoidable that they have river water intake.]

Aside from the fishing industry that may be affected by the oil spill, the local government said at least five villages in Rizal also rely on the Morong river for their irrigation.

“Sabi nila safe, sabi ko, sana nga ganon,” San Juan said, adding they could only hope for the best.