August 5, 2008

Philippines Warned Against Environmental Disaster for Ferry Capsizal

Philippines warned against environmental disaster for ferry capsizal

MANILA, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- A joint expert team from the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) Monday warned of huge environmental disaster in the waters of the Philippines' central province of Romblon following the sinking of an ill-fated ferry.

The MV Princess of the Stars, containing large amounts of oil and highly toxic chemicals, capsized off Romblon on June 21 at the height of Typhoon Fengshen with 863 people on board. No more than 60 survived the disaster.

The team said the toxic substances are likely to spread if the government fails to establish a bio-monitoring program and a comprehensive disposal plan before the start of a salvage operation.

The EU and the UN have found large quantities of five pesticides and other hazardous substances on the ship, but no leakage from the wreck has been detected so far.

"I hope that the suggestions made by our experts concerning sampling procedures, bio-monitoring and precautionary measures will help ensure that this dreadful tragedy does not also turn into an environmental disaster," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said.

The EU-UN report, received by Xinhua, confirms the presence of five pesticides in two different containers on the ferry. One 40- foot container was found to contain only endosulfan, while another 10-foot container contained four other pesticides: carbofuran, propineb, metamidophos and niclosamide.

Their recommendations include improving the monitoring of water, sediment and air, and the establishment of a bio-monitoring program. Technical advice is also provided on sampling methods and analysis, while further study of prevailing ocean currents is also advised.

"The detailed advice will help determine where pollution could occur - in the water, sediment, or air - and whether the products will remain inside the wreck. It will also improve the assessment of the risk to coastal populations," according to the report.

Vladimir Sakharov, chief of the Joint UN-EU Environment Unit said the "tragic accident underscores, once again, the crucial role of prevention and the importance of preparedness and contingency planning with regard to industrial and technological emergencies, including maritime accidents."

The disaster confirmed the need for improvement in the safety practices of the inter-island shipping industry in the Philippines, the experts said.

Meanwhile, they said that that a complete system for the recovery, storage and elimination or disposal of chemicals should be in place before the start of retrieval operations.

(c) 2008 Xinhua News Agency - CEIS. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.