Fishers’ group seeks ban on offshore mining

By Delfin Mallari Jr.
Southern Luzon Bureau
Last updated 04:48pm (Mla time) 07/30/2007

LUCENA CITY — The militant fishermen group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) has urged the government to stop all offshore mining activities in different parts of the archipelago, citing extreme dangers these pose to marine environment, food security, and livelihood of thousands of small fishermen.

Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap made the urgent call after receiving reports from its provincial chapter in Negros that two large ships and a black submarine allegedly belonging to the Japan Exploration Inc. (Japex) would start drilling in the waters of Tañon Strait for potential oil and gas reserves beginning this month.

 

Hicap warned of severe fish crisis if the government would not cancel all offshore mining activities in the Visayan Sea, in Palawan and other parts of the country, adding that the far-reaching effects of oil and exploration could lead to a decrease of 600,000 metric tons in the yearly production of fish in the country or approximately 20 percent annually.

 

The group claimed that the offshore mining in Central Visayas and other parts of the Visayan Sea alone would affect not less than 100,00 small fishermen and 500,000 dependents and would further exacerbate the problem of food security of the 87 million Filipinos.

 

Hicap said that transnational ships used in oil and gas explorations were now working double time to mine the country’s vast reserves of black gold and precious gas at the expense of the country’s food security and marine environment.

 

“These oil search ships are performing their search for oil and destroy the environment activities as if our territorial waters are their private properties designed for uncontrollable oil extraction,” he said in a statement.

 

Hicap said the service contract for Tañon Strait, a protected seascape separating the island provinces of Cebu and Negros was awarded to Japex and Forum Corp., a Canadian firm.

 

The government, through the Environmental Management Bureau, issued an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to Japex last March to proceed with the oil drilling, he added.

 

Hicap reported that while seismic tests in Bohol were stopped by day-to-day protests and vigilance on the part of the Cebu-Bohol Strait, covering 204,000 hectares of marine waters, the Australian-based oil group NorAsian Energy Limited had conducted a seismic survey on the part of Cebu, and was planning to conduct another seismic test this time at the Cebu-Leyte Strait covering 244,000 ha of marine waters off the waters of northeastern Leyte.

 

The Pamalakaya leader said ships used by NorAsian in oil and gas exploration were in the Cebu-Leyte Strait conducting series of seismic tests in the area.

 

Hicap said he also learned that another service contract was being offered off the waters of Iloilo province and Panay Island for possible oil and gas deposits.

 

A Malaysian oil exploration firm and the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp. will start drilling operations next month to confirm oil deposits estimated to reach 160 million barrels off the coast of Culasi town in Antique province, said Hicap.

 

Aside from the reported oil and gas exploration activities in Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Iloilo, Panay and Leyte, Hicap said the DoE was also targeting several areas of Palawan, Mindoro Occidental and Maguindanao.

 

Hicap predicted that the chase for rich oil and gas deposits in the Visayan Sea and other parts of Luzon and Mindanao would result in a national calamity of bigger proportions affecting the fishery sectors and marine environment.

 

He said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and foreign business interests from Japan, Australia, and Canada must be stopped from executing the “unprecedented massacre and uncontrollable destruction of people’s livelihood and national environment in the name of national plunder, bureaucrats’ fat kickbacks and corporate super profits.”

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