An international fact-finding body, which recently visited communities affected by the off-shore oil and gas exploration along the Cebu-Bohol strait, revealed that the exploration would be detrimental to the livelihood of the fisherfolks in the area.
BY RITCHE T. SALGADO
An international fact-finding body, which recently visited communities affected by the offshore oil and gas exploration along the Cebu-Bohol strait, revealed that the exploration would be detrimental to the livelihood of the fisherfolks in the area.
The offshore mining exploration is being undertaken by the Department of Energy (DoE) and Australian company, NorAsian Energy Ltd.
Vince Cinches, executive director of the Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center, Inc. (FIDEC) and a delegate of the International Fact-Finding Mission sponsored by the Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), revealed that in all the communities they visited in Pinamungajan, Aloguinsan, Argao and Sibonga, there has been a 70 to 80 percent reduction in fish catch. Because of the reduction in income, children of many fisherfolks have stopped schooling, while others are getting sick because of malnutrition.
Other delegates of the IFFM are Andry Wijaya of Jatam-Indonesia and the Oil Watch Southeast Asia; Teh Chun Hong of PAN AP; Wichoksak Ronnarongpairee and Busarin Pandit of the Federation of Southern Fisherfolk (Thailand); Gilbert Sape of the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS); and, Meggie Nolasco of Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Philippines).
Cinches, who is also co-convenor of the environmental group Save Tañon Strait Citizens’ Movement (STSCM) pointed out that the Visayas is the epicenter of global marine shorefish diversity with the “richest concentration of marine life in the entire planet.”
He said that the presence of NorAsian or JAPEX, is detrimental to the marine biodiversity in the area as the sonic boom from the air gun used in the seismic survey would result in damage to the body tissues of marine organisms, including their reproductive systems.
In addition, the noise that would be made could alter the distribution of fish by tens of kilometers.
“You should keep the oil underground and let fisherfolks have their means of livelihood,” said Andry Wijaya of Jatam-Indonesia and Oil Watch Southeast Asia (Indonesia).
Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos of STSCM asserted that drilling is a violation of the concept of social justice as provided for by the constitution. She added that the fisherfolks should have the supreme right to the use of fishing grounds.
Cinches said that because of strong opposition from different local governments in Bohol and the affected communities, NorAsian was forced to transfer their base of operations in Cebu by mid 2007. He said that Cebuanos should not permit what the Boholanos have rejected.
Paulita Destor of Bol-anong Kahugpungan sa mga Kabus nga Mananagat (Bokkana-Bohol) said that the exploration along the Cebu-Bohol Strait should be stopped as this would destroy the rich marine resources of the strait. This in turn would further bring the fisherfolks deeper into poverty.
Representatives from oil-producing countries Malaysia and Indonesia claimed that the presence of oil producing companies would not help in the country’s economy.
“Malaysia is a petroleum exporting country,” said Teh Chung Hong of Malaysia-based PAN-AP. “Forty percent of our income is from petroleum. But despite this our country still imposed a forty percent increase in the price of oil. Malaysia’s experience is that petroleum money will not bring benefit to people, even for oil-producing countries,” he said.
He further cited the example of Sarawak and Teranganu, which produces most of Malaysia’s oil. He said that these two states are also Malaysia’s poorest.