Kamis, 06 Oktober 2011

MONTARA OIL SPILL VICTIMS STILL WAITING FOR COMPENSATION by Fardah

       Jakarta, Oct 6, 2011 (ANTARA) - Victims of the Montara oil spill in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) have been waiting for compensation from PTTEP Australasia, the Thai company operating the Montara oil field, for more than two years.
       An explosion occurred in the Montara oil field on August 21, 2009 causing an oil pipe to burst and the resulting oil spill to contaminate the Timor Sea in NTT Province. As a consequence, 40 million liters of crude oil were released into Australian waters and eventually into Indonesian waters. Some 70,341.76 square kilometers of the Timor Sea part of which borders on NTT province was polluted.
       Following the incident, fishermen in Oesapa in the district of Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, found thousands of dead fish floating in the Timor Sea. In mid-January 2010, the leak was finally plugged and secured permanently, but unfortunately the damage was already done.
       The Indonesian government has demanded compensation amounting to US$2.4 billion from PTTEP Australasia.
      PTTEP Australasia and the Indonesian government were earlier scheduled to sign the MOU on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds amounting 3 million US dollars or Rp 27 billion, in Jakarta on Aug 3, 2011.

But the company later postponed the plan to sign the MOU with Indonesia due to the swearing-in of Thailand`s new cabinet which took place on the same day with the plan to sign the MOU.


"The signing of the MOU is delayed until late August 2011," Head of the East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) Environmental Agency (BLHD) Alexander Oematan said early August.


PTTEP Australasia wanted a Thai government`s representative to be present during the signing of the MOU, he said.


August 29, 2011 was later set as the new date for the MOU signing, but it was eventually delayed again to September 6, 2011, and now it has been postponed once again until a still uncertain date.


"The signing of the agreement was delayed because there was a change in the Australian energy and mineral resources minister`s post but we are now asking that the accord be signed soon," Environmental Affairs Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta said last September.


PTTEP Australasia was planning to make up for Indonesia`s losses through its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program and had told journalists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) it would thereby be compensating Indonesia.


According to Mohammad, the figure Indonesia had forwarded as compensation for the impact of the Montara oil spill was rejected by Australia on the ground it was too high.


The Indonesian government had calculated the direct losses suffered by local fishermen by the oil spill`s polluting effect, the general economic losses, as well as the indirect losses from the damage done to coral reefs, mangroves and coastal ecosystems.


"However, that is unacceptable to us because there is a difference between CSR and damages," Minister Hatta said, insisting that the compensation must be given separately from CSR funds.


The minister`s view was supported by Rote Ndao District Head Leonard Haring of NTT, saying that CSR was not the same as compensation for the oil spill victims.


Leonard, who was in Jakarta to attend a national coordinating meeting on environmental law enforcement, on October 3, urged the government to assist the pollution victims and not abandon Rote Ndao residents guarding the nation`s maritime border line.


"Do we have to keep on waiting for Montara`s CSR? It`s like selling the nation`s dignity. If they give us the compensation, we will thank them, but if not, the government must protect its people," he said.


The Association of Indonesian Catholic University Students (PMKRI) has criticized the NTT provincial administration for being weak and slow in handling the Montara oil spill case.


"The oil spill happened more than two years ago, but our government seems to keep silent and apathetic instead of fighting for the fate of local fishermen and seaweed farmers who have become victims of the Montara oil spill pollution," Yoakim Abi, chairman of the PMKRI`s NTT chapter, said in NTT`s capital of Kupang, on September 8, 2011.


Odorikus Goa Owa, the presidium chairman of the PMKRI`s Kupang chapter, shared Yoakim`s statement, saying that there was no coordination between the district and provincial governments in dealing with the case.


"The district and provincial administrations should have had common voice in fighting for the interests of the people who have become victims of the pollution. But, the fact is not like which later triggers a scandal as reported by Australia`s The Weekend West early this week," he said.


Yoakim Abi said the handling at the national level led by Transportation Minister Freddy Number in his capacity as the National Team of Emergency Response to Oil Spill in Sea (PKDTML) had failed because they worked at their own without involving concerned parties.


The government should involve the West Timor Care Foundation (YPTB) chaired by Ferdi Tanoni in dealing with the pollution case.


Thousands of coastal residents in NTT have been affected by the water contamination of crude oil spill, plumbum, and dispersant chemical powder of Corexit 9500.


Ferdi Tanoni said in August 2011, the pollution has destroyed coral reefs in Sawu waters in East Nusa Tenggara.


The Sawu waters which have been declared by the ministry of fisheries and marine resources as a national conservation area are the migration lane of various kinds of whales from the north to the south of Australasia.


He believed that the coral reefs destruction in Sawu waters was the result of hazardous materials coming from the Montara oil well explosion and the dispersant used by the Australian Maritime Security Authority AMSA.


He said seaweed farming on coastal areas in the province has no longer produced harvests due to oil pollution while traditional fishermen`s catch has also dropped following the Montara oil spill.


Head of the NTT Regional Legislative Council (DPRD)`s Golkar Faction Hendrik Rawambaku recently said before the oil spill disaster, seaweed farmers in Rote Ndao could produce 7,334 tons of seaweed annually,and after the waters contamination it dropped to 1,512 tons in 2009, and further decreased to 341.4 tons up to June 2010.


In NTT, some 7,000 traditional fishermen and more than 10,000 coastal communities rely on the Timor Sea and seaweed cultivation for a living. At least 3,200 local fishermen have been affected by the Montara oil spill in Timor Sea. ***3***


(F001/A/HAJM/16:50/a014)

(T.F001/A/F001/A/A014) 06-10-2011 17:01:42

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