Cost to Guimaras: P9.2 Billion

Carmela Fonbuena
Estimate is based on the assumption that affected areas are totally damaged. It excludes compensation for residents relying on the sea for livelihood.

Editor’s Note: This story was first published by Newsbreak.

MANILA, Philippines – Petron lost what could have been millions in income from the 2.4 million liters of oil that sank with M/V Solar 1 near Guimaras. They’re spending more for the cleanup costs and assistance to affected residents. But it’s nothing compared to how much Guimaras lost and has yet to lose. Based on the initial estimates of Resource, Environments, and Economic Center for Studies (REECS), a group of environmental economists, the island will suffer an economic loss of almost P9 billion in the first year alone. This covers the cost of the lost environmental services and recreational and tourism values. This means that cleaning up efforts and related health services for the population, estimated to cost another P266 million, is only the tip of the iceberg.

The damage to the mangroves, coral reefs, seagrasses, and estuaries—which are fish habitats—would cost Guimaras P8.3 billion worth of services. The damaged area includes the Taklong Island Marine Sanctuary, which is an area of study for many marine biologists because of its rich marine biodiversity. According to a report by the World Wildlife Fund, the dugong, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle, and several cetacean species are threatened.

According to the REECS report, 14 out of 36 resorts in Guimaras were affected by the oil spill. The tourism sector may lose an estimated P652.2 million this year because of the tragedy.

Following a formula used internationally in evaluating economic values of ecosytems, REEC’s estimates  were based on the assumption that the affected areas are totally damaged. These exclude compensation for the residents who largely rely on the sea for livelihood. Nearby provinces also depend on the sanctuaries of Guimaras for fish. This can be proven and then quantified by looking at the ocean currents.

“Something else might come up that will impact on the livelihood, which is not seen as of now,” says REECS’s Noela Lasmarias. “Guimaras is a fragile ecosystem. Oil spill has unseen effects.”

“It could be more than [P9.2 billion],” says Rina Maria Rosales, also with REECS, which will take a six-month onsite study to look at the actual scope of damage.

If Guimaras will play its cards well, there’s a chance it will receive rightful compensation for its losses. Its case is similar to Alaska’s Prince Willian Sound, where the Exxon-Valdez oil tanker sank in 1989, spilling 10 million gallons of oil, also on a marine sactuary. Thanks to the international attention that sustained the case against the owners of Exxon-Valdez, the owners were made to pay US$1.1 billion in various settlements, $2.5 billion for the cleanup costs, and $5 billion for recklessness. – Rappler.com