Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Aquino government urged to give justice to M/V Princess victims

By Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) Updated June 23, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines

- An environmental group has urged the incoming Aquino government to rectify the great injustice committed against the people of Sibuyan and Mother Nature by issuing an executive order that will cause the immediate resolution of the case involving victims of the M/V Princess of the Stars tragedy.

Roy Alvarez, president of EcoWaste Coalition, said the executive order should cause the completion of the retrieval operations, including the recovery of the remains of the victims and their decent interment upon proper identification, and ensure just compensation for all victims, as well as the environmentally-sound removal of the ship and exhaustive cleanup of the Sibuyan shores.

“The long overdue removal of the M/V Princess of the Stars is causing untold suffering to the people and environment of Sibuyan, which has earned the distinction of being called the ‘Galapagos of Asia’ for its rich biodiversity,” he said.

In solidarity with the Sibuyan people, the EcoWaste Coalition threw its support behind the latest plea made by the Our Lady of Re­medies Parish in the municipality of San Fernando and the Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment Inc. (Sibuyan ISLE) on the occasion of the second anniversary of the sinking of M/V Princess of the Stars on June 21.

Fr. Noel Sixon and the Sibuyan ISLE scored concerned private companies and governmental agencies for failing to keep their promise of retrieving the remains of the victims still trapped inside the sunken ship and the removal of the ship itself from the coast of the famed Sibuyan Island.

Rodne Galicha, coordinator of Sibuyan ISLE, a partner group of the EcoWaste Coalition, said garbage washed ashore has transformed the seashore into a virtual dumping ground.

Aside from the huge containers of rotting cigarettes and other products stocked along the coast, Sibuyan ISLE reported that a company contracted for the initial retrieval operations had built three pits for waste disposal in Barangay Taclobo, San Fernando, contravening the local government’s directive not to leave any trash in the vicinity.

“The dumpsites are in clear violation of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and Republic Act 9275 or the Clean Water Act, which both forbid open dumping to prevent environmental pollution,” Alvarez said.

“We earnestly hope that P-Noy will give high priority to resolving this still evolving human and environmental tragedy during his first 100 days in office. The families of the victims and the people of Sibuyan have suffered long enough,” he said.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Order immediate retrieval of sunken ship, Aquino urged

SIBUYAN, Romblon, June 21, 2010— Residents of San Fernando in Sibuyan Island are urging President-elect Benigno Aquino to order the immediate retrieval of sunken ship M/V Princess of the Stars.

Two years since the boat sunk off the coast of Sibuyan island, full retrieval of the victims’ remains and other cargoes are yet to be accomplished.

Fr. Noel Sixon, parish priest of Our Lady of Remedies in San Fernando town lamented the inaction of concerned companies and agencies directly responsible for the retrieval operations.

“How many times that they promised to retrieve the sunken ship completely? Two years is enough for these promises. We pray for justice for these souls who have been taken for granted, who are still trapped in the indifference of the concerned agencies and companies,” Sixon said.

The tragedy has severely affected not only the lives of the victims’ families but his parishioners as well, the priest said.

“There are a lot of things to be done after the tragedy, not only the trauma and sadness of the bereaved family but also the lives and livelihood of my parishioners who are gravely affected by the typhoon which are left forgotten,” he said.

Taclobo village chief Arturo Mortera also demanded the immediate retrieval of the ship saying the people cannot anymore take another year of promise.

“As we seek justice for our fishermen and those who were affected, we demand for the complete retrieval of the remains of the passengers which are still trapped inside the ship, these poor souls are already part of our community,” he added.

A fishing ban was implemented after the sea tragedy which has affected many fishermen who depended on fishing as their main livelihood.

And even after the ban was lifted, fishing was deemed unsafe because of oil leak coming from vehicles trapped in the belly of the ship.

Rodne Galicha, coordinator of environmental group Sibuyan Island Sentinels League for Environment Inc. (Sibuyan ISLE) said the wastes and garbage washed ashore transformed the seashore into a virtual dumping ground.

“Huge containers have been stocked along the seashore with putrefying cigarette packs and other products, oil leaking from the ship and unretrieved cars and trucks, the remains of the victims still trapped, garbage pits on the island—these are some realities which continue to worry our island-people,” he said.

An earlier report also said the salvor company built three garbage pits in the area for waste disposal despite restrictions from the local government not to leave any waste in the area.

Galicha said the Aquino administration should include the completion of retrieval operations in the agenda of his first 100 days in office.

“In the first 100 days of incoming President Benigno Aquino, we urge him to look seriously into this tragedy with a sense of urgency,” he said.

Galicha said it is lamentable that the Arroyo government failed to pressure the companies and agencies involved to fully accomplish the retrieval operations. Two years is too long, he added. (CBCPNews)