Bayan Muna Solon to probe ’dubious’ oil exploration in Tañon StraitBayan Muna Solon to probe ’dubious’ oil exploration in Tañon StraitBayan Muna Rep. Joel Virador filed House Resolution 1005 urging the committees on natural resources and energy of the House of Representatives to investigate the alleged dubious approval of oil exploration activities in Tañon Strait in the Visayas Region despite being declared a protected area under Republic Act 7686 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) law.
Citing data from the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR-R7), the Tañon Strait is among the country’s top fishing grounds producing huge quality fish stocks which include blue marlin and tuna. It is also one of the chosen conservation areas by the World Wildlife Fund, where at least 10 out of 21 known species of whales and dolphins are found including the bottlenose and long-snouted spinner dolphins, false killer whale and the short-finned pilot whale.
Aside from possible violation of the NIPAS law, incidents of human rights violations against fisherfolk in the area have also been reported involving Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. Ltd. (JAPEX) and the Canada-based Forum Exploration Inc. (FEI). The two firms have been granted a 25-year contract to extract and produce oil from Tañon Strait.
Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya or National Federation of Fisherfolk Organizations in the Philippines) also reported that small fisherfolk and other nearby residents said they are already experiencing the harmful effects of the exploration, including fish kill, destruction of fishing nets and dangerous obstructions caused by pipes and cables.
The group also reported that JAPEX and FEI allegedly banned fishing and shell picking along Tañon Strait. Without consulting the local fisherfolk, those caught fishing around the exploration area threatened with a fine with P20,000 ($367.51, based on an exchange rate of P54.42 per US dollar) to P60,000 ($1,102.54).
Fishers’ harvest has also been reported to have been reduced by 80 percent, from around 20-30 kilos to only three to five kilos a day, since the oil exploration started in May. (Bulatlat.com)