UN special rapporteur on food begins inquiry on Tañon Strait offshore mining —- Pamalakaya report
The chairperson of the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday revealed that United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right food is looking into the impact of offshore mining in Tañon Strait to the coastal people and fishing communities covered by the previous oil hunt in Central Visayas.
Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in his email dated June 3, 2009, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food Mr. Olivier de Schutter acknowledged the receipt of several information on the oil and gas exploration project in Tañon Strait, a protected seascape separating the island provinces of Cebu and Bohol, and expressed his interest to know more about the situation, including the increasing presence of government troops and the actions taken by the Supreme Court on the cases filed by the affected fishermen.
In his two-page email addressed to Mr. Vince Cinches, executive director of Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center (FIDEC), a support non-government organization (NGO) working with Pamalakaya and the affected communities due to offshore mining in Tañon Strait and other parts of Central Visayas, de Schutter said after examination of the initial report of Pamalakaya and FIDEC, he wants to know more about the Philippine army getting involved in stopping the demonstrations against the offshore mining.
“Some reports mentioned that the army has been deployed in some areas to prevent local leaders from disturbing ongoing exploratory operations. Could you please give us more details on this situation?” the UN special rapporteur on the right to food asked.
“Has the army intervened in some demonstrations and then left, or is the army permanently deployed to prevent access by fishermen? Can you provide details of a few instances where this happened, including the names localities, dates etc?” de Schutter added.
According to the Pamalakaya leader, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right food also want to know the Supreme Court action on the cases filed by Pamalakaya, FIDEC, the affected communities and environmentalist groups against the offshore mining in Tañon Strait conducted by Japan Petroleum Exploration Ltd. (Japex) since 2005.
“The UN special rapporteur on the right to food is interested on how the high tribunal acted on several petitions filed by affected communities and their supporters before the Supreme Court. It seems the UN engagement will depend on the high court will take this issue. If the court decides in favor of the national government and Japex, then that will be time the UN will intervene because the legal remedy at the domestic arena is already exhausted,” said Pamalakaya.
Last year, a Tokyo based daily published a story on May 13 announced that Japex mother company announced that Japex Philippines Ltd. decided to relinquish service contract 46 on June 20, 2008 because no promise of oil and gas was found in the protected seascape believed to be rich in marine biodiversities.
But Pamalakaya said the pull out of Japex offshore mining in Tañon was a triumph of truth and justice and high regard for people’s livelihood and the environment. We are happy to send Japex out of Tañon Strait. But we have some scores to settle with Japex and Malacañang for the economic and environmental havoc they created to the people,” the group said.
Pamalakaya said the next offshore mining battle will be in Cebu-Bohol Strait, where the Australian firm NorAsia is expected to start its oil and gas exploration in August this year. The group had already written Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to persuade the’ offshore mining company—NorAsia Energy Limited to back off from oil and gas exploration deal with the Philippine government in the Cebu-Bohol Strait.
In their three-page open letter to Prime Minister Rudd of the Australian Labor Party, Pamalakaya 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.
Pamalakaya said the case of Cebu-Bohol Strait will also be brought to the attention of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
“The far-reaching effects of oil and gas exploration even during its exploratory or prospecting stage prior to production and extraction are extremely dangerous to fish production and marine life based on the country’s previous experience with Tañon and other offshore mining activities staged by foreign oil and gas groups,” the group said.
Pamalakaya said it will ask de Schutter to also investigate the offshore exploration and mining of NorAsia on the 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.
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.#