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Philippines set for tighter maritime regulations following spill

Philippines set for tighter maritime regulations following spill

Manila: Dramatic changes to the Philippines' shipping regulations can be expected in the wake of the nation's worst oil spill ever, caused by the sinking of the 998-ton Solar I on August 11.

Compulsory use of double-hulled oil tankers, restricted shipping lanes and a ban on tankers making port calls in densely populated areas and passing through marine reserves are some of the measures under consideration.

Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz, head of the government's task force looking into the disaster, said all domestic tankers carrying oil in Philippine waters would be required to have double hulls by 2008. He said a full overhaul of shipping rules was needed to prevent another spill similar to the one that happened off the coast of central Guimaras Island three weeks ago, adding that random inspections would be stepped up.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo will certify as urgent a bill that would give more teeth to maritime regulations after the oil spill on Guimaras showed them to be flawed, an official said yesterday.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Mrs Arroyo had ordered the transport department, the Coast Guard and other agencies to submit a comprehensive assessment of pending bills on tougher maritime rules. He said Mrs Arroyo had also ordered the Coast Guard to identify sea lanes for vessels carrying oil, chemicals and other dangerous materials, and then to submit its recommendations on September 6.

"The President wants to ensure that the Solar I oil spill will be the last of its kind," Bunye said. "The Executive department is prepared to certify the proper legislation in the public interest that will give more teeth to our maritime laws and stiffer penalties for negligence."   [04/09/06]