MANILA, Oct 26 (Reuters) The Philippines will wait until calmer weather in January to start siphoning off around 1.4 million litres of oil trapped in a submerged tanker off its central coastline, an official said today.
The Solar 1 sank in rough seas on Aug. 11 and leaked nearly 500,000 litres of bunker oil, affecting 40,000 people and more than 200 km (125 miles) of coastline in the Visayas region.
Since the initial spill, a further 200,000-300,000 litres has seeped from the tanker, buried about 640 metres (2,100 feet) under water off central Guimaras island, disaster officials have said.
''The operation will require at least a 30-day window period of good weather,'' Rafael Coscolluela, the presidential adviser for western Visayas region, told reporters, adding he was advised the recovery of oil would start in early January.
Coscolluela said they could not start earlier because weather conditions were unpredictable. ''There's a possibility that typhoons or bad weather will disturb the operations, increasing the risk of further spills''.
A 0 million insurance claim from the International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund (IOPC) would fund efforts to siphon off the bunker fuel, Coscolluela added.
Portions of the fund would also go to about 4,000 fishermen who lost their livelihood due to the oil spill as well as for the clean up of affected areas.
The Philippines said the London-based IOPC would award the contract to an experienced, international maritime salvage firm to recover what remained inside the tanker.
Solar 1 was enroute to the southern port city of Zamboanga to unload 2.2 million litres of bunker fuel to be used in a power plant in the province when huge waves and strong winds caused the tanker to sink.
REUTERS DKB HT1820