ILOILO – Oil spill victims in Estancia town charged the government-owned Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) and the National Power Corp. (Napocor), demanding over P300 million in compensation and damages.They asked Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 66 pairing Judge Globert Justalero to grant them P100 million in moral damages, P100 million exemplary damages, P100,000 litigation cost, and P20 million actual damages.
The clerk of court assessed the filing fee at P43 million but said the court may allow the plaintiff to prosecute as “pauper litigants,” with the Supreme Court withholding P43 million as “lien” in case the plaintiffs win the case.
“This is only the first batch of 50 plaintiffs. More charges will follow as more and more victims come forward to enlist,” Atty. Rene Estocapio told reporters when he filed the complaint at the RTC in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo, Friday last week.
“We will also implead contractor Kuan Yu Global Technologies, Inc. for delaying the cleanup that aggravated the sufferings of the victims, and the Philippine Coast Guard as unwilling plaintiff,” said Estocapio.
Estocapio is a member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), an advocacy group of lawyers and para-legals.
Estocapio quoted Republic Act 9993, particularly Section 3 paragraph “n” that mandates the Coast Guard to “enforce laws and promulgate and administer rules and regulations for the protection of marine environment and resources from offshore sources of pollution within the maritime jurisdiction of the Philippines”, and that includes oil spills.
The plaintiffs are all from Barangay (village) Botongon, a coastal village of some 320 households, and the worst hit by the oil spill from Power Barge 103 of Napocor which super typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) battered to the rocky shore of the village on 08 November last year.
The accident prompted Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. to order a forced evacuation due to high levels of toxic fumes from benzene.
In their seven-page complaint, the victims argue that the “adverse effects of the oil spill…o n the(ir) lives and livelihood were not caused by the Act of God or any fortuitous event” because days before “Yolanda”, the state weather bureau accurately charted the projected path of the super typhoon.
However, they said, Napocor and PSALM ignored it, instead of moving the barge to safety as did other operators who cruised their vessels to the safety of the Iloilo – Guimaras Strait.
The victims’ livelihood revolves on marine life that the oil spill disrupted – as fishers, haulers, vendors, dryers and boat helpers, among others. The shore of Barangay Botongon was blackened by the sludge from bunker fuel.
“The defendants should have exercised extraordinary diligence considering the imminent danger of the coming typhoon and the possible effect of the storm surge on the power barge if it will be forced ashore and hit rocks and hard objects,” read part of the complaint./PN
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