Alert system 'working and functioning'

Top News | Riley Chan and Michelle Li 9 Aug 2017

Environment Undersecretary Tse Chin- wan yesterday defended Hong Kong's notification system with the mainland, saying the two-day delay in informing the SAR about the oil spill was "not too late."

Two vessels collided in mainland waters on Thursday, but Hong Kong was only informed two days later.

Tse said the notification system requires one party to notify the other only when the spill is expected to affect the other party's jurisdiction.

He said that when the accident occurred, mainland authorities did not know if it would affect Hong Kong and believed the situation was under control.

"Once they realized the spill was spreading to Hong Kong waters, they alerted us immediately," Tse added.

Speaking on a radio program yesterday, deputy director of environmental protection Elvis Au also said the notification scheme was "working and functioning."

He added: "This is a non-problem. From my understanding, they activated their emergency response and notified Hong Kong on Saturday, providing very important information to us and that the ship involved was carrying palm oil, allowing our relevant departments to seek the appropriate measures."

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's Gary Stokes said palm oil is hazardous to wildlife as it attracts bacteria.

Only 100 to 200 tonnes of the 1,000 tonnes of spilled palm oil reached Hong Kong shores, the government said.

"We can't say exactly whether the government's data on the palm oil spill are right or wrong, but the government certainly has to do some work on its communication to the Hong Kong public," said Civic Exchange communications director Joyce Lau Hor-chung.

Lau added that despite Hong Kong's infamous urban lifestyle, many beaches affected by the spill mattered more to the city than people believe.

A Civic Exchange poll showed that over 60 percent of Hongkongers have visited some of the natural areas in the last year or so.

"Obviously, no spill of any substance is good for the environment, and that they have affected our beaches is very worrying to us," she said.

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