Gov’t Selling Protected Seas to TNCs – Environmental Groups

In line with its thrust of attracting foreign investments, the Arroyo government is now opening up the country’s protected seas to oil and gas exploration by transnational corporations.

Vol. VII, No.29, August 26 – September 1, 2007

CEBU CITY- “The country’s protected seas are up for grabs to the highest bidder among transnational offshore mining companies,” said environmental activist Vince Cinches, executive director of Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center (FIDEC) in an interview with Bulatlat.

Cinches, an active crusader for the protection of the country’s fishing areas and declared marine heritage, lamented the government’s thrust of opening the country’s waters to foreign investors for oil and gas exploration. He said the government has practically placed the entire archipelago, and its seas, under siege by transnational corporations, posing dangers to the country’s marine environment and threatening the people’s livelihood and source of food security.

The executive director of the fisherfolk non-government organization (NGO) led leaders of different environmental groups, people’s organizations and advocacy driven associations and individuals in submitting petition letters to different government agencies and local government units in Central Visayas, including the regional offices of the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources- Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) calling for an imposition of a moratorium on all offshore mining activities in the Visayan Sea.

Cinches said their campaign against offshore mining activities in Tañon Strait, a protected seascape separating the island provinces of Cebu and Negros Island, is gaining ground.

Last July 25, Victor Maambong, provincial board member of Cebu, and Agnes Magpali, chair of the provincial committee on the environment, and provincial board member filed a joint resolution urging Congress to declare the Visayan Sea as marine reservation and heritage to protect the Visayan waters from corporate takeover of foreign offshore mining companies.

“We will get more people to join our cause. The people are on our side. History is on our side. There’s nothing to fear. We will just have to continue with our work in defense of the environment, national patrimony, and the sovereign rights of the people,” he said.

Preparing for a major legal battle

FIDEC, together with Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya- National Federation of Small Fisherfolk Organizations in the Philippines), the Cebu City based advocacy group Defend Our Seas coalition and the umbrella environmental group Kalikasan- People’s Network for the Environment would seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) from a regional trial court in Cebu to
stop all mining activities in Visayan Sea.

Cinches said the petition for TRO would seek the court’s intervention against mining activities in Tañon Strait, in Cebu-Bohol Strait, another protected seascape separating the islands of Cebu and Bohol, in Northeastern Leyte and in Antique.

“We are now in the stage of preparing the case People of the Visayan Sea and the Republic of the Philippines vs.offshore mining companies. We hope to finish the final document early next month to be able to challenge the foreign mining clients of Malacañang before the regular court,” he added.

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