While a handful of families still mourn over the loss of lives and unretrieved bodies after the tragic collision of two huge marine vessels at Lawis Ledge, Cebu, dozens of communities are also mourning for their loss of livelihood. The uneventful collision of MV St. Thomas Aquinas 1, an inter-island passenger ship or commonly know as RORO, and the MV Sulpicio Express Siete, a cargo ship, has in turn led to the disastrous sinking of the former and along with its 870 passengers. The sunken ship is now slowly leaking it’s 20 tons of diesel, 20 tons of lube and 120 tons of bunker oil into the sea causing a massive spill to the nearby islands of Cebu and Mactan.
Today, while we the working class commemorate the Ninoy Aquino Day, I decided not to go to work and instead make a personal documentation of the oil spill that have claimed the livelihood of our neighboring town, Cordova. I have very little knowlege of the town except that I’ve been to Lantaw, a famous seafood sort-of-floating restaurant in Brgy. Day-as and to Isla Romantica a man-made island in Brgy. Alegria.
I took a pedicab and asked the driver to take me somewhere coastal so I could document the oil spill. On the way, he shared to me how massive the destruction was and how people couldn’t sell their catch anymore.
We first stopped at Bantayan Wharf in Poblacion Cordova. The wharf was somehow facing south and the collision site wasn’t visible. However, majority of the sea bordering southwest Cordova are shallow water, about 4 kilometers radius and may just simply be the obvious reason why one of the two marine vessels were stuck in the dilemma of either hitting the other ship or instead hitting the suddenly rising slope of seafloor.
To the left of the wharf was a resort called Cordova Reef and to the right is a large shed which served as jump off for tourists going island hopping. It was high noon and high tide when I visited so what greeted me was the thick accumulated oil rushed to the shore and sea wall and mixed with garbage. Some locals approached me and had their share of the story. They say it was an even worse sight when the tide was out. During high tide, the oil rushes forward with the waves and sticks to whatever solid it will pass – rocks, seawall, mangrove, animals, garbage. At low tide, the ‘free oil’, those that weren’t stuck to anything will be rushed back and spread all over the place again. So this cycle goes on until all the oil is consumed. And what good is oil on seawater? Or stuck with rocks, seawall, mangrove, animals, garbage? Nothing. Not that I know of.
By the time I visited, the men tasked to shove out the accumulated oil were on lunch break. There were, however, drums filled with black slimy substance lined up by the wharf . People say there was media coverage of the clean-up, but I didn’t see them.
My second stop was at Day-as wharf, famous for its boardwalk and, of course, Lantaw seafood restaurant. There, I was greeted by a multitude of men in uniforms, police, army, navy, coastguard and rescue groups, standing brightest in their orange suits. I walked around the boardwalk and noticed there was still a good number of people eating at Lantaw. I speculated somehow that they had to order non-seafood stuff.
I was emotional on the sight of the mangroves submerged in oil. The boardwalk was lined with mechanical booms made of recycled materials and some oil absorbing pads donated by some Chinese fellow. According to the kapitana, the plight of the bakasi (sea eel), a major product of Cordova, and bakawan (mangroves) is as saddening as the plight of the fisher folks and their families. “Indi ka na gd katilaw bakasi, day” (you will never get to taste see eel again) she told me. I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted bakasi before but the message got across.
See next article to know the plight of the fisher folks and how we could be of help.