More than 400,000 Cebuanos and inhabitants of other Central Visayas provinces engaged in the fishing industry are affected by the oil exploration that is being conducted by NorAsian in the waters of Bohol Strait.
BY RITCHE T. SALGADO
CEBU CITY — More than 400,000 Cebuanos and inhabitants of other Central Visayas provinces engaged in the fishing industry are affected by the oil exploration that is being conducted by NorAsian in the waters of Bohol Strait.
Vince Cinches, executive director of the Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center (FIDEC), told Bulatlat that since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced that her administration would be pushing for energy independence through the development of independent sources of energy, more than 30 service contracts were issued by the Department of Energy (DoE) to different oil and gas companies. Six of these contracts cover areas in Central Philippines.
“It’s too much, the waters of Central Visayas are surrounded by service contracts for different oil companies to identify, develop and distribute oil resources,” he said.
“The Central Visayas is the epicenter of global marine shore fish diversity and has the richest concentration of marine life in the whole planet,” he said, pointing out that with the oil explorations it is expected that the local marine ecosystem would be adversely affected.
NorAsian Energy Ltd., an Australian oil exploration company with three service contracts in the Philippines, is currently conducting explorations in the waters of Bohol Strait off the coast of Argao and Sibonga to find out if the amount of fossil fuel in the area is commercially viable.
Cinches, who is also co-convenor of the Save Tañon Strait Citizens’ Movement, claimed that the granting of service contracts to these foreign oil companies will not help the country and the local economy because of the tax holidays and other privileges granted to the foreign companies under the outdated Presidential Decree No. 87 of 1972 or the Service Contract Law.
“This in itself is a violation of our sovereignty,” he said. “We already have an example of this with the Malampaya oil field in Palawan where the local government is not benefiting from the said project.”
Cinches pointed out that another undesirable effect of the exploration is the negative economic impact it has among the fisherfolks in the area. “Since all these explorations started in 2005, fish catch in the region was reduced by 70 to 80 percent,” he said.
According to Pamana-Sugbo-Pamalakaya, a local organization of fisherfolks in Cebu, the impact of the oil exploration activity will result in a fish crisis that would “cut domestic production by an average of 600,000 metric tons of fish and other marine products annually in the next seven to 10 years and will reduce the per capita fish consumption of every Filipino by not less than 20 percent.”
Cinches said that fishing is the second biggest employer in Central Visayas, directly or indirectly. He explained that one of the effects of the exploration is that it will damage the coral reefs that are abundant in the area. These coral reefs are the natural habitat and breeding ground of fishes.