Fishers oppose Australian oil hunt in Cebu

FISHERS groups led by Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and its provincial chapter– the Panaghiusa sa Gagmay’ng Mangingisda sa Sugbo (Pamana-Sugbo) declared their opposition against the oil and gas exploration along Carcar City and Aloguinsan, which will be conducted by the Australian firm Gas2Grid (G2G) this mid-September.

In a statement, Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap and Pamana-Sugbo chair Victor Lapaz said the government has yet to learn its lessons from the devastating impact of oil and gas hunt performed by a Japanese oil exploration seven years ago in Tanon Strait, a protected seascape separating the island provinces of Negros and Cebu.

“Are we in for another environmental plunder and disaster? The government is inviting another environmental catastrophe that will lead to more fish kills, drastic cut in fish catch and direct affront to people’s health and well being by allowing this oil and gas exploration giant from Down Under to pursue this first-rate environmental destruction in Cebu fishing grounds,” they said.

The Department of Energy (DoE) had confirmed that G2G is ready transport the on-shore oil rig, Rig 2, from San Fernando town in Southern Cebu to Jacob 1 and Gumamela- the drilling areas in Carcar City. After Carcar City, the next area to be drilled will be the Ilang well located in Aloguinsan town in Western Cebu.

The groups said the results of the fact-finding mission it conducted on September 2005 regarding the oil drilling of Japan Petroleum Exploration Ltd. (Japex) in Tanon Strait should convince President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and his energy officials that G2G oil exploration in Carcar City and Aloguinsan would bring chaos and not progress to the coastal communities in Cebu and highly inimical to public interest and people’s welfare.

In September 2005, Pamalakaya and Pamana-Sugbo in cooperation with Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center (Fidec) and other non-government environmental organizations conducted a national fact-finding mission in Tanon Strait to determine the socio-economic and environmental impact of oil exploration in Cebu Seas.

The results of the fact finding mission in Tañon Strait revealed that fish catch of Cebu fishermen dropped to 3 kilos to 5 kilos of fish per fishing trip during the post oil exploration period from a high of 15 kilos to 20 kilos during the pre- oil exploration period. The fact-finding mission also found out that fisherfolk in Guihulngan City and municipality of Vallehermoso, Negros Oriental and San Carlos City and municipality of Calatrava, Negros Occidental, reported that their fish catch was reduced to 2 – 3 kilos from 10 – 15 kilos.

They said fishkills in San Carlos City and the disappearance of baga, a local type of fish known in Guihulngan City, were reported.

“The government even earmarked P 3.9 million for the protection of Tanon Strait in recognition of the destructive impact of oil and gas exploration in the protected seascape. How come the government is in again into another business of self-destruction of open seas and fishing communities in Central Visayas? This new exploration deserves wholesale rejection and condemnation,” the groups said.

The fact-finding team also found out that a total of 136 payao or fishaggregating devices were destroyed by the survey vessel.A payao is an artificial reef made of Styrofoam materials, dispatched by fisherfolk in strategic areas to increase fish catch. Some of the payao owners were paid Php4,000 each through the intervention of the Department of Agriculture, but most Payao owners were not compensated.

They said the Australian firm is interested to source out a the potential of 50 million barrels of stocked oil in Jacob 1 in Carcar City. According to the DoE, the 25-year contract awarded to G2G can be extended for 25 years.

The DOE assured that the drilling will not have negative impacts on the environment since the area for exploration is limited.

The Australian oil and gas firm said the on-shore drilling program costs about $7 million.


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