The Central Visayas fisherfolk NGOs said aside from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former DoE Secretary Rafael Lotilla and former DENR Secretary and now DoE Secretary Angelo Reyes, the owners and top executive officers of offshore mining companies like the Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. Ltd. (Japex) and Forum Exploration Canada (Forum) in charge of oil and gas exploration in Tañon Strait, and the Cebu-Bohol Strait group- the Trans-Asia and Energy Development, Alcorn Gold Resources Corporation, Petro Energy Corporation and the Australian-owned AustralAsian Energy Ltd. and Ottoman Energy Ltd. would be named respondents.
Cinches said environmental and fisherfolk groups in Cebu, Bohol and Negros were compelled to take the battle to court after they learned that the regional office of the environment department and environmental management bureau in Region VII granted an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) to Japex last March 6 upon the approval of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Committee.
Last April 12, 2007, DENR Regional VII Regional Director Alan Aranguez in his reply to Cinches’ inquiry dated January 30, 2007 regarding the status of Japex application for ECC, said the proponent was able to present a comprehensive plan to address the impact of offshore drilling in Tañon Strait.
The DENR-Region VII official said the ECC application was approved upon the endorsement of the municipal governments of Aloguinsan and Pinamungajan and the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape Management Board.
House Resolution vs. offshore mining in Visayan Sea
At the House of Representatives, Bayan Muna (BM or People First) Rep. Teodoro Casiño and four other militant party lists would file a house resolution directing the House Committee on Natural Resources, chaired by presidential brother-in-law and Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo, to investigate the impact of offshore mining in the Visayan Sea.
The still unnumbered resolution would be filed on August 28, and would be co-authored by Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran and Gabriela Women’s Party Reps. Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.
In the said House resolution, Casiño and four other militant party list congressmen said the government’s thrust to make the country an energy independent country set forth in the 2004-2010 Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan, has compelled the Macapagal-Arroyo administration into awarding service contracts to various foreign oil and gas exploration companies since the Malampaya oil and gas project in 2001.
The Bayan Muna congressman also said the targets of oil and gas exploration operations are protected seascapes rich in marine biodiversities, as well as other fishing grounds declared as environmentally fragile.
The resolution also noted that of the 34 service contracts for offshore mining, two service contracts are found in Central Visayas namely in the Tañon Strait, a body of water separating the island provinces of Cebu and Negros, and Cebu-Bohol Strait, separating the provinces of Cebu and Bohol.