ILOILO CITY—Contrary to allegations made by Rep. Janette Garin, residents of Miag-ao town in Iloilo said the filing and payment of compensation claims for damages arising from the Petron oil spill were not marred by irregularities.
Members of the Miag-ao Municipal Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (MFARMC) said the claimants “underwent rigid screening” by the office of the municipal agriculturist and submitted sufficient documents and requirements to prove that they were victims of the oil spill.
A total of 523 residents received some P1.7 million from the International Oil Pollution Compensation (IOPC) Fund, an intergovernmental organization which assists oil spill victims.
Garin accused IOPC personnel of “wanton laziness” in verifying the claims and of tolerating “barbaric political gimmickry.” She named Miag-ao Mayor Gerardo Flores, outgoing Dumangas Mayor Rolando Distura, and then provincial board member Niel Tupas Jr. as among the politicians who were recommending the claimants.
Garin defeated Flores in the May 14 elections.
Her allegations were contained in an e-mail the lawmaker sent to Hugh Bayley, a member of the United Kingdom House of Commons.
IOPC director Willem Oosterveen had earlier disputed Garin’s charges.
In a manifesto passed on June 12, the MFARMC pointed out that the claims were processed before the election period and that Garin was the one who made the compensation process “a political gimmick.”
It said Garin’s actions “jeopardized the chances for claims of some 2,000 additional victims.”
The group asked the lawmaker for a dialogue in the presence of members of the media. Garin said she was willing to talk but stood firm on her allegations.
She maintained that the compensation claims were used for political purposes, from the identification of recipients to the distribution of payments.
Garin said the processing and payments of claimants during the election period went against the agreement reached in a meeting of Iloilo representatives, Petron officials and Presidential Adviser for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela with President Macapagal-Arroyo.
They agreed that the payments for Iloilo claimants would be made after the elections to avoid it being influenced by partisan politics, she said.
Only the claimants from Miag-ao and Oton towns received compensation because the other coastal towns in the first district would file theirs after the elections, said Garin.