Saturday, August 19, 2006

En Route to a Marine Disaster

We left port a few minutes ago heading towards Guimaras, the site of what is now considered worst oil spill in Philippine history. It is my first time to be on the Esperanza and have joined the Rainbow Warrior and the Arctic Sunrise several times, more recently visiting the pristine reefs of Tubbataha. Now I am onboard the Esperanza for the Defending Our Oceans Expedition.

Before leaving the port, I sat on the port side of the ship watching floating plastics and other garbage on the waters of Manila Bay, I can not help but feel anxious about what awaits us in the waters of Guimaras. It is depressing enough to see synthetic flotsam on the water’s surface as well as taking pictures of corals and other marine life smothered by plastics and other garbage. However, I do not think I am quite prepared to witness an oil spill first hand after seeing several documentaries of other oil spills and pictures of this recent and ongoing disaster.

We spent a lot of time discussing and considering the different factors that led to the decision to bring the Esperanza to Guimaras. More importantly, we had to make sure that Greenpeace would be there to make a difference in the ongoing efforts to minimise the impacts of the spill, if that is possible. As her name means, the Esperanza brings hope to a few families in the form of donated relief goods. The Philippine Coast Guard also requested Greenpeace to help in the visual assessment and documentation of affected areas (over and underwater).

As we discussed the plans to dive in areas affected by the oil spill, images of corals and other marine organisms covered in black sludge flashed into my mind notwithstanding our personal safety if we would dive in the oil slick. I have seen dead and dying corals which are almost totally white during the coral bleaching event in 1998 that brought tears to my eyes while I was diving conducting the assessment. Now I have to prepare myself to see something worse.


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