The tanker SOLAR 1 sank in the Guimaras Strait in the central Philippines on August 11, 2006, spilling a significant part of her 2,100 tonne cargo of IFO 217. The Philippine Coast Guard led the challenging response to this spill, which impacted sensitive tropical habitats, disrupted fisheries, and affected coastal communities. The spill oiled shorelines along the southern coasts of Guimaras Island and several smaller islands in the Guimaras Strait. This area is rich in mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass beds, which makes it very important for fisheries and aquaculture. Extensive areas of mangroves were oiled, including stands in the Taklong Island National Marine Reserve. Oil also stranded along sand, pebble, and cobble beaches, often seeping into the substrate or becoming buried. The remoteness and rugged terrain of the affected area made shoreside access for cleanup difficult and oversight of cleanup operations complicated. Political demands and press attention frequently made it more difficult for response managers to direct response operations. Shoreline cleanup, organized under the auspices of the national oil company Petron, was conducted manually by hired local residents. The removal of heavy contamination was completed in most areas within three weeks but more detailed cleaning and clearing recovered oily waste continued for approximately three months. As recommended by mangrove experts, little cleanup was conducted in oiled mangroves. Monitoring a year after the spill indicates that impacted mangroves are recovering naturally and suffered only minor mortality. Perceptions that seafood might be contaminated affected fisheries far beyond the areas actually contaminated by oil. Misunderstanding of the health risks associated with the spilled oil led to prolonged evacuation of a number of villages and hardship for coastal subsistence communities.
Several international oil spill experts provided guidance to Philippine responders. A U.S. advisory team, including representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Strike Team and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration'S Emergency Response Division, spent three weeks on-scene in the spill area, working with Philippine responders and natural resource managers. Representatives of the International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation provided technical guidance and advice on-scene for several months. Based on the observations of external advisors, this paper summarizes the impacts and challenges responders confronted in cleaning up the SOLAR 1 oil spill.