As part of the campaign against off-shore mining, a top official of the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Pamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) personally wrote Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd requesting the Australian premier to persuade its’ offshore mining company—NorAsia Energy Limited to back out from oil and gas exploration in the Visayan Sea.
BY GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ,
Vol. VIII, No. 23, July 13-19, 2008
A top official of the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Pamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) personally wrote Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd requesting the Australian premier to persuade its’ offshore mining company—NorAsia Energy Limited to back out from oil and gas exploration in the Visayan Sea.
In his three-page open letter to Prime Minister Rudd of the Australian Labor Party, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the offshore mining that will be conducted by NorAsia and their Filipino partner companies beginning next month poses extreme danger to the Philippine marine environment, and the East Visayan Sea, which is the center of marine biodiversity in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.
“Honorable Prime Minister, we strongly oppose NorAsia’s offshore mining in Cebu-Bohol Strait and in the entire East Visayan basin because it will pave the way for the systematic gross destruction of the marine environment and the across-the-country massacre of fisher people’s livelihood. The issues raised against offshore mining go beyond the context of profits and cost benefit analysis,” Hicap said in his letter to the Australian premier.
The Pamalakaya leader added: “The far-reaching effects of oil and gas exploration even during its exploratory or prospecting stage prior to production and extraction are certain, based on the country’s previous experience with other offshore mining activities staged by foreign oil and gas groups.”
The letter was sent to the House of Representatives of the Parliament House of Australia based in Canberra. Pamalakaya’s Hicap immediately sent the letter a day after he learned that NorAsia Energy Limited was able to secure Area 8 Service Contract 69 that would allow the Australian oil and gas group to explore 7,400 square kilometers of marine waters encompassing the Cebu-Bohol Strait, a narrow sea strait separating the island provinces of Cebu and Bohol, and parts of Leyte in the East Visayan basin.
The group said the entire offshore mining activity will cover 445,000 hectares of marine waters over a 7-year period based on the agreement signed by NorAsia and its Filipino partner-the TransAsia Oil and Energy Development Corporation. The agreement was sanctioned by the Department of Energy, Pamalakaya said.
In 2007, NorAsia acquired 146 square kilometers of 3D seismic data over two prospects in Service Contract 51. It said Area 8 of Service Contract 69 offers significant follow-up potential in additional structures if initial drilling in Service Contract 512 is successful.
NorAsia said Service Contract 69 has approximately 3,000 kilometers of existing 2D seismic and an active petroleum system as shown by the abundant onshore oil seeps and seismic-supported direct hydrocarbon indicators in the area.
Studies on air pollution
In their letter to Rudd, Pamalakaya asserted that many studies revealed that offshore mining causes a significant amount of air pollution. Each offshore oil platform generates approximately 214,000 pounds of air pollutants each year. An average exploration well for natural gas could generate 50 tons of nitrogen oxides, 13 tons of carbon monoxide, 6 tons of sulfur dioxide and 5 tons of volatile organic hydrocarbons.
In addition to that, oil and gas drilling operations produce huge amounts of water waste ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 metric tons of highly toxic water waste materials per drilling. The seismic tests, which are part of the exploration stage, damage the hearing organs of marine species, cause hemorrhage in body tissues, and damage their reproductive organs.
Pamalakaya said seismic blasting can cause behavioral modifications in marine species and reduce or eliminate available habitat for breeding, spawning, foraging and migration. Seismic noises can alter fish distribution by tens of kilometers and can elicit physiological stress on neural-immune responses in marine organisms.
The group also said seismic tests damage plankton eggs and larvae found in the immediate vicinity of airgun, and reduce catches in commercial fishers. It also damages swim bladders of fishes and lungs of marine mammals.
“Recent findings also revealed that oil and gas exploration activities could lead to massive production of other toxic waste materials such as cadmium which causes lung cancer; lead which causes gastrointestinal diseases, blood and kidney disorders, mental retardation and affects the nervous system; chromium which causes lung and liver cancers, kidney and other respiratory illness,” the militant group added.
Pamalakaya said if NorAsia pushes through with its offshore mining, a severe fish crisis will happen. It could lead to a dramatic decrease of 600,000 metric tons in the yearly production of fish in the country or approximately 20 percent annually.