The initiative comes as the government attempts to stockpile and use tonnes of hair and feathers to absorb more than 200,000 litres of industrial fuel that leaked from a tanker when it sank off the central island of Guimaras more than two weeks ago, officials said on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, more than 15,000 inmates at a maximum security prison in southern Manila, including 1,000 on death row, began donating hair on Tuesday, officials say.

 

Vergilio Santos, 42, a murderer serving time at New Bilibid prison, told reporters after his head was shaved: "We're collecting plenty of hair to send to Guimaras to solve the oil spill problem."

 

The coast guard plans to put chicken feathers and human hair in sacks tied to bamboo poles as barriers along the coastlines of affected villages on Guimaras and in nearby Iloilo province.

 

Residents have been using rice straw in sacks to contain the oil slick, which has affected 46 villages on Guimaras and in Iloilo, as well as a marine reserve.

 

Evacuation

 

Bags of hair await collection to
aid the clean-up operation

More than 40,000 people and 200km of coastline have been affected by the spill from the tanker, which was chartered by Petron, the country's largest oil refiner.

 

Health officials recommended the evacuation of residents living near the shore in Lapaz village on Guimaras after monitoring showed an increase in air pollution in the area.

 

Soldiers, who set up checkpoints in Lapaz, asked journalists to wear masks before entering the village.

 

Francisco Duque, the health secretary, said: "Our tests showed high levels of hydrogen sulphide, benzene and toluene.

 

"Prolonged exposure to these can create health hazards to residents."