Endangered Strait: Report of the Fact-Finding Mission on Tañon Strait Oil Exploration

Last Oct. 22-25, various progressive organizations held a fact-finding mission on several coastal communities of Guihulngan City and Vallehermoso in Negros Oriental and San Carlos City and Calatrava in Negros Occidental. The FFM was prompted by the scheduled start, on Nov. 10, of the exploration drilling to an area in the waters off the western coast of Cebu. The exploration drilling was granted by the Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR amid the oppositions of local fisherfolk organizations PAMANA-SUGBO and PAMALAKAYA-Negros and the questions raised by environmentalist groups.

POSTED BY BULATLAT
Vol. VII, No. 40, November 11-17, 2007

Last Oct. 22-25, various progressive organizations hold a fact-finding mission on several coastal communities of Guihulngan City and Vallehermoso in Negros Oriental and San Carlos City and Calatrava in Negros Occidental.

The FFM was prompted by the scheduled start, on Nov. 10, of the exploration drilling to an area in the waters off the western coast of Cebu.

The exploration drilling was granted by the Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR amid the oppositions of local fisherfolk organizations PAMANA-SUGBO and PAMALAKAYA-Negros and the questions raised by environmentalist groups.

The FFM aims to document the alleged fish kills, reduction of fish catches and destructions of the “payao” during the exploration since 2005.

Methodology

The team is composed of 12 members from different people’s organizations. The team includes the PAMALAKAYA-North Negros District, PAMALAKAYA-Vallehermoso, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), GABRIELA, Aglipayan Forum, and Timbang Satellite Environmental Volunteers Organizations of Cadiz City.

The team visited eight coastal communities from Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental northward to Calatrava, Negros Occidental. These are Sitio (sub-village) Cotcot of Barangay (village) San Isidro, Calatrava; So. Sumulog and So. Lawis of Brgy. Buluangan, San Carlos City; So. Look Uno, Brgy. Poblacion and So. Baybay of Brgy. Pu-an, Vallerhermoso, Negros Oriental; So. Lamacan of Brgy. Malusay, So. Pier of Brgy. Bulado and So. Bocana, of Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

The team also visited local public officials for an interview. The team made courtesy visit to Mayor Perla Fernandez of Vallehermoso, Negros Oriental and Vice-Mayor Cesar Macaluja of Guihulngan, Negros Oriental.

Two methods were used by the Team, the Focused Group Discussions (FGD) and Key Informant Interview. In the FGD, a group of fisherfolks sat with the FFM team to discuss the issue facilitated by the team leader. In Key Informant Interview, the team interviewed one person, who may have deeper knowledge of the issues.

The Team interviewed 15 key informants from the visited area, most of whom are municipal fisherfoks.

Tañon Strait

The Tañon strait separates Cebu and Negros. Its peripheral provinces are Cebu, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental. The Strait has a total coastline of 452.7 km. and a total area of 3,108.00 square kilometers. It is relatively deep with the deepest at 509 meters. Its coast is sharply sloping and fringe with reefs.

Tañon Strait is bounded with 36 coastal municipalities and cities of Cebu, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental. Small islands and islets can be found at the central part and northern boundary of the Strait.

Patches of mangroves aggregates are found in the southern coast at both sides of Negros Oriental and Cebu. There are 188.3 sq. km. of coral reef within the strait, composed mostly fringing reef along the Negros and Cebu coastlines.

The Strait is a distinct habitat of the chambered nautilus (Nautilus pompilius, local name taklong) and a migration route of Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus). It is home to at least nine species of cetaceans, the most interesting of which are the Dwarf sperm whales (Kogia simus) and Melonheaded whale (Peponocepala electra). Thus, the strait is one of the priority areas for conservation of cetaceans and reef fishes.

The rich marine resource of Tañon Strait is the basis for the Presidential Proclamation 1234 by President Ramos on May 1998.

Tañon Strait is one of the major fishing grounds of Central Visayas and is identified as major source of squids. Based on the survey of the BFAR and the Coastal Resource Management Project (CRMP), there are about 26,850 fishers operating in the area and more than 12,000 motorized and non-motorized boats.

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