San Miguel Corporation is one of the biggest conglomerates in the Philippines and has now earned notoriety as the culprit behind what is shaping up to be one of the biggest oil spills in the country’s history.
SL Harbor Bulk Terminal Corporation, a subsidiary of San Miguel Shipping and Lighterage, chartered RDC Reield Marine Services to ship the 800,000 liters of industrial carried by the tanker MT Princess Empress that sunk off the coast of Oriental Mindoro. Frighteningly, the oil spill is projected to impact more areas of the Verde Island Passage including Batangas.
We condemn the silence of San Miguel Corporation in its role in the MT Princess Empress tragedy and for the audacity to cover up its involvement with a mere cleanup drive to address the oil spill. San Miguel has been a main perpetrator of the fossil fuel boom in the country, including liquefied natural gas (LNG), which we have warned will increase the probability of a maritime incident that would threaten the ecologically sensitive ecosystems of Verde Island Passage. SMC has shown our fear is not misplaced.
SMC cannot be trusted with safety as long as it remains chained to the fossil fuel industry. We hope that this time around, SMC will be called into account for its role in the MT Princess Empress oil spill, as stated in the Revised Rules on Prevention, Containment, Abatement, and Control of Oil Marine Pollution of the Philippine Coast Guard Memorandum Circular No. 01-2005.
With SMC as the charterer, it is generally considered as the owner of the vessel and the spiller. This puts on SMC the responsibility to pay up. SMC must pay at least Php 70,000,000 cash bond – Php 50 million for clean-up and containment and Php 20 million for damages and payment to impacted communities.
Environmental destruction and livelihood deprivation comes with a hefty price tag. The next time SMC is in the news for something big, we hope it will be for the biggest penalty ever imposed on a Philippine company.
FR. EDWIN GARIGUEZ