MANILA — The Mindoro oil spill must serve as a wake-up call for lawmakers to make companies liable for damage caused by environmental disasters through legislation, an environmental policy expert said Tuesday.
In an interview with ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, lawyer Tony La Viña lamented that despite having several environmental laws, the Philippines does not yet have a corporate environmental liability act requiring companies to pay for the impact of the disasters they would cause.
He said that while corporations at present are made to pay fines and cleanups, they are not obliged to compensate affected communities for losses.
"Companies that damage anything because of their activities should pay for that damage, [they] should compensate fishermen for their loss of livelihood, [and] local governments for their loss of revenue," La Viña said.
While companies and their assets are insured should disasters occur, La Viña said the communities who would have to suffer the long-term impacts of these unforeseen events "rarely get anything from the insurance."
"Every time na may oil spill... iyong palaging nagdudusa ay ating mga kapwa Pilipino, mga fisherfolk, iyong mga nakatira sa coastal areas na dependent on livelihood from fisheries and coastal tourism. Imagine kung gaano kalaking pinsala ito, they rarely get anything from the insurance," he said.
(Every time there's an oil spill, it's the common Filipinos who always suffer: the fisherfolk, as well as those living on coastal areas whose livelihoods depend on fisheries and coastal tourism. Imagine the enormity of the damage of this oil spill, but they rarely get anything from the insurance.)
"Itong tanker na ito [MT Princess Empress], ang mga nag-contract nito will not suffer. Kasi insured iyan... Nabayaran lang iyong loss ng product o ng ship. Rarely is that same money used to actually pay for impacts on livelihoods which can last for years. Iyon ang nagiging problema," he added.
(Those who contracted this tanker will not suffer as it is insured. Only the loss of the product or the ship is paid... And that's the problem.)
"It's time to make the polluters pay," La Viña also said.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) earlier said that around 150,000 people across Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, and Antique were affected by the oil spill.
On Feb. 28, oil tanker MT Princess Empress sank in the Tablas Strait, bringing down 800,000 liters of industrial fuel with it.
The University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI) oil was still leaking from the sunken vessel as of March 15.