Gov’t Selling Protected Seas to TNCs – Environmental Groups

Casiño said foreign oil and gas exploration companies are also eyeing the waters of Antique, Leyte, Palawan, and Mindoro Occidental, Albay and Camarines Sur region for offshore mining that will transform the archipelago into an offshore mining country.

Casiño’s resolution revealed that in the Tañon Strait, two oil and gas exploration companies- the Forum Exploration Inc. of Canada, and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. Ltd. (Japex) signed a 7-year contract with the Philippine government to explore and undertake oil and gas exploration, and another 25-year contract for the extraction and controlling process.

The Casiño resolution said Cebu-Bohol Strait exploration proponents want to subject 444,000 hectares of marine waters to oil and gas exploration. This has met strong opposition from small fisherfolk, local government officials, beach owners and environmental groups.

The resolution also took note of the results of an environmental investigative mission undertaken by FIDEC, Pamalakaya, Cebu Relief and Rehabilitation Center, Rural Concern’s Network and Cebu Alliance for Renewable Energy on September 9-11, 2005 in the fishing barangays of Toledo City, Pinamungajan and Aloguinsan to investigate the effects of seismic tests and other oil exploration activities of Forum and Japex.

The mission yielded the following results:

1) Average fish catch (in areas where seismic tests were conducted) was drastically reduced by 67 to 75 percent or from pre-oil gas exploration of 15 to 20 kilos average catch per day to 3-5 kilos of fish per day.

2) A total of 120 “gangos or payaos”, local name for artificial coral reef and indigenous fishing methods, were destroyed in Toledo City and municipalities of Pinamungajan and Aloguinsan. Only 33 payao owners were paid by Forum and Japex, during the early phase of oil and gas exploration.

3) Fish kills occurred in coastal barangays of Talavera, Luray II, Calong Calong, Ibo and Bato in Toledo City, Tajao, Pandacan, Tutay and Cabiangon in Pinamungajan, and Cantabogon, Boho, Poblacion and Bonbon in Alguinsan.

4) Skin rashes and other types of skin diseases afflicted the residents of coastal villages victimizing mostly children with ages from 5 to 12 years old.

For its part, the Pamalakaya fisherfolk group had set an initial meeting with Senator Jamby Madrigal to discuss the possible sponsorship of a senate resolution calling for an investigation of the impact of offshore mining in the Visayan Sea, as well as in Palawan, Ragay Gulf and other areas in Mindanao.

The militant group has also referred their fight against offshore mining nationwide to the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). It hopes that the bishops and other opinion makers in the religious sector will take a position on the issue.

“We will seek the CBCP’s divine intervention in our crusade against corporate takeover of the country’s protected seascapes and people’s patrimony. This is a matter of life and death to small Filipino fishermen,” Pamalakaya asserted.

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