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PNM MP wants Petrotrin to develop La Brea

Monday, December 30, 2013
In wake of oil spills..
A young boy stands on the shore line at Coffee Beach, La Brea, as the clean up efforts continued on the beach yesterday following an oil spill. PHOTO: KRISTIAN DE SILVA

La Brea MP Fitzgerald Jeffrey says it will be months before residents affected by an oil spill in the area can return to nomal life. For that reason, he said, state-owned energy company Petrotrin should compensate affected residents by developing the community and establishing a drilling institute in the area. Jeffrey, who spoke to the T&T Guardian after touring the area with Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley, said Petrotrin was yet to determine the source of the leak.  



Rowley is calling for more accountability, saying the Government and Petrotrin must accept liability for the oil spill. “The Government should be ashamed of the way they have treated La Brea in the face of the oil spills and its effects,” he said after the tour. “I’m calling on the legal fraternity to provide pro bono services to La Brea residents in the matter of protecting their rights as citizens,” he said.


Jeffrey later told the T&T Guardian: “What we are seeing is that they have a lot of work to do still. This whole thing about returning to normalcy for the area. That is far away. I cannot see that because they have not ascertained the source of the oil spill. If they cannot ascertain the cause of the oil spill, I cannot understand how they can tell me that it is 85 per cent completed. “Oil is still coming in. One just has to go out and take a walk along the coastline to see what the situation really is,” he said.


He said despite the efforts of Petrotrin, only 60 per cent of the oil has been removed with the other 40 per cent being a  tougher task that may take up to two months to complete. He said oil still needs to be removed from the coastline and mangroves. In the mean time, he said, fishermen and their workers remain without income and residents continue to fall ill.


The Opposition MP called on Petrotrin to show proper corporate social responsibility and construct a seawall to alleviate flooding caused by high tides, repair the dilapidated pier near Carrat Shed Beach to accommodate the water taxi service and establish an oil drilling school to ease unemployment in the community.


“Even under the last PNM administration, I had articulated plans for the development of this area here because I know about the unemployment situation. One of the things was to get the water taxi and this pier here needs to be repaired to set up that service. Additionally, I have been advocating for a drilling institute to be located in La Brea. The first oil well that was drilled in the country was in La Brea.  Oh gosh!  What other justification you need to put down a drilling institute in La Brea,” Jeffrey said.


“Of course, we need a sea wall as with this high tide we have a little flooding. All these are basic things that we need to get done. I really wish more and more people in Trinidad and Tobago can come down to see what the conditions are like.” He again called for residents to be evacuated and accommodated at HDC’s Hubert’s Town, Southern Gardens and La Fortune Estates in Point Fortin where he said there are many available units.



Moonilal: Inter-ministerial Committee handling residents
In response, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal said he has taken note of Jeffrey’s request for housing accommodation. He said Cabinet has established an inter ministerial committee led by Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine “to address the myriad of challenges posed by this development.” “This committee is dealing with the technical, security and social issues emanating from the spill,” Moonilal said.


“We expect that requests and assessments for temporary housing will be made by the inter-ministerial committee to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. I prefer to structure our emergency response through the appropriate state agencies. The HDC can do social assessments in collaboration with the inter Min com and the local Govt corporation.” 



Kublalsingh: Petrotrin needs to take charge
Commenting on the oil spill at a press conference held at the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union headquarters yesterday, environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh said Petrotrin is a multi-billion-dollar company and needs to compensate affected resident using international best practices.


“It seems to me that Petrotrin ought to take responsibility for the people who are being affected. I don’t think by saying it is sabotage alone could absolve them from taking full and clear responsibility for the affected people. “They must take charge and they must compensate using the international best practices. Compensate the people, house them fairly and give them their due. Do no say sabotage therefore we ought not to compensate, they have to take charge of their oil spill,” he said.


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