Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. V, No. 50      January 29 - February 4, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines











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Cebu, Bohol Fishers Protest vs Oil Exploration

While the government claims that gas and oil exploration activities will reduce the country’s heavy dependence on imported oil, fisherfolk organizations fear these will kill marine life and destroy their livelihood.  

By Gerry Albert Corpuz

Cebu City―Leaders and members of local fisher folk groups in Cebu and Bohol provinces, in the Visayas Islands south of Luzon, are protesting oil exploration activities at Cebu Strait. The seismic survey covering 250 kms. are being done by virtue of a petroleum service contract covering parts of the East Visayan Basin awarded  by the Department of Energy (DoE), July 18, 2005, to a consortium composed of Alcorn Gold Resources Corp., Petro Energy Resources Corp. and Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp.

The oil exploration was granted a Certificate of Non-Coverage by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region IV (DENR) last March 18, 2005.

The AustralAsian Energy Ltd. has joined the consortium and it will provide barges and ships that would accompany the personnel and workforce that would undertake the seismic tests in Cebu Strait and Northern Leyte.

Local fisher folk groups say that the Cebu Strait, which covers 204,000 hectares of marine waters and coral reefs, is home to more than 39 fish and marine species.  It is a communal fishing ground for fisher folks from Cebu and Bohol.  Subsistence fisher folk from at least seven coastal towns in Cebu and five towns in Bohol depend on the strait.  They fear that the oil and gas exploration will kill marine life in the strait and destroy their livelihood.  

Provincial affiliates of the fisher folk federation, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas or Pamalakaya (National Movement of Fisher folks in the Philippines) in Bohol namely, the Bol-anong Kahugpongan sa mga Kabus nga Nanagat (Association of Poor Fisher folk in Bohol ) or Bokkana-Bohol, and Cebu, the Panaghiusa ng Gagmay'ng Mangingisda sa Sugbo (Unity of Small Fisher folk in Cebu) or Pamana-Sugbo, have set-up monitoring posts in Argao municipality in Cebu and Loon town in Bohol.

"We are monitoring the entry of barges and ships that would enter the Cebu Strait anytime this month. We will confront them once they get into our territory," says Paula Distor, spokesperson for Bokkana-Bohol, in an interview with Bulatlat.

"It would not be a walk-in-the park when they enter the Cebu Strait. We are determined to stop and end this corporate plunder by the violators of national patrimony in Malacañang and the transnational clients of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo," says Pamana-Sugbo chair Victor Lapaz in a separate interview.

Not just in Cebu and Bohol

The exploration activities will not be limited to the Cebu Strait. It will be done in two parcels. 

Based on the map provided by DoE, Parcel 1 in the East Visayan basin covers marine waters around six coastal towns of Northern Leyte province ( Isabel, Palompon, Villava, Tabango, San Isidro and Naval Island) and eight coastal towns of Cebu (Tabagon, Bogo, Borbon, Catmon, Sogod, Malapascua, Bantayan Island and Camotes Island). Parcel 1 covers waters separating Cebu and Leyte.

Parcel 2 covers the Cebu Strait along the seven coastal towns of Cebu namely Argao, Carcar,
Sibogon, Dalaguete, Alcoy, Boljoon and Oslob and five coastal towns of Bohol namely Calape, Loon, Maribojoc, Tagbilaran and Panglao island. Parcel 2 of the oil and exploration activity will cover 204,000 hectares of marine waters in Cebu Strait separating Cebu and Bohol.

National projects

On the occasion of  World Food Day and Peasant Week, last October 21, leaders of Pamana-Sugbo and the Cebu chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (National Movement of Peasants in the Philippines) or KMP initiated a dialogue with officials of DENR Region IV and DoE Region IV headed by directors Julian D. Amador and Antonio Labios.  The dialogue held in Cebu City discussed the destruction of Tañon Strait and the proposed seismic explorations in Cebu Strait.

The regional directors of DENR and DoE in Region IV said that they cannot stop the oil and
gas exploration activities as these were national projects approved by the Office of the President.


Pamana-Sugbo and Bokkana-Bohol enumerated 39 fish species that would be affected by seismic tests for the oil and gas exploration project in Cebu Strait.  These are anchovies (dilis), emperor breams, flying fish, fusiliers or banana fish, garfish, needle fish, goat fish, groupers, sea basses, halfbeaks, jacks, crevalles, travelles, darts, mojarras, silver biddies, mullets, rabbit fish, spine feet, sardines, herrings, sprats, gizzard shads, scads, slip mouths, pony fish, snappers, sea perches, squirrel fish, soldier fish, surgeon fish, tangs, unicorn fish, threadfin,  breams, spine cheeks, tunas, mackerels, and wrasses.

Leaders of Pamana-Sugbo and Bokkana-Bohol said they are collecting signatures for a petition against the oil exploration. They said the petition signing will be conducted in 25 fishing towns affected by the massive oil and gas search in Cebu, Bohol and Northern Leyte provinces.

On February 24, Pamana-Sugbo will spearhead a fluvial parade in Cebu City and Toledo City.  Flotilla protests bearing placards and streamers with junk oil and gas exploration calls and slogans will also sail to dramatize the sector's opposition to the multi-billion peso seismic tests.

For its part, Bokkana-Bohol will undertake both fluvial and flotilla protests in Tagbilaran City and Loon municipality in Bohol.

Both groups will join the Pamalakaya chapter in Negros, Lambat-Masbate (Net-Masbate), the local fisherfolk chapter in Masbate Island, and the Lakas ng mga Maliliit na Mangingisda ng Bicol (Movement of Small Fisherfolk in Bicol) in filing criminal and administrative charges against President Arroyo and  former DENR Secretary Michael Defensor.  The charges will be filed before the Office of the Ombudsman on the second week of February over the issue of oil and gas exploration activities in Tañon and South Cebu Straits, the Lafayette twin mine spills, the distribution of 4,968 environmental compliance certificates in 2005 and the approval of DENR Administrative Order 24 opening up all coastal areas for investment. Bulatlat




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