Fishers group asks Japanese gov’t to rehab Tañon S

Fishers group asks Japanese gov’t to rehab Tañon Strait

The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday asked the Japanese government to undertake the rehabilitation of Tañon Strait, a protected seascape, which was drilled by a Japanese oil and exploration group for potential oil and gas deposists in 2005.

The militant group said the Japanese government is obliged to carry out the rehabilition, after the offshore mining group Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. Ltd. (Japex)left the country on June last year.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the Japanese government should immediately set aside some P 20-billion fund for the environmental repair and economic rehabilitation of the protected seascape separating the island provinces of Cebu and Negros, which he said was extremely devastated by the three-year offshore mining activities of the Japanese oil and gas firm.

“The Philippine government must push the Japanese government or Japex to pay for what they destroyed during the aggressive and destructive search for oil and gas deposits in Tañon Strait. The P 20-billion rehabilitation fund is just a near approximation of what Japex destroyed. It could be more, but what is important is that they have to pay for the crimes against the environment and the fishing people,” Hicap asserted.

On May 13, 2008, Japex mother company announced that Japex Philippines Ltd. had decided to relinquish its service contract effective June 20 last year because of the lack of commercial oil and gas discovery as a result of exploration work, including drilling of one exploration well.

Japex Philippines, the subsidiary of the Tokyo based Japex Ltd was established on May 26, 2006 to supervise the oil and gas exploration in Tañon Strait with a paid up capital of 2.9 billion yen.

According to Service Contract No. 46, which was awarded to Japex, the Japanese oil and gas hunt company will lead the gas and oil search with 65 percent participating interest, while the Philippine government through Kufpec Philippines, a unit of Kuwait’s state oil company, will have a 35 percent participating interest that will entail 2,500 square kilometer of Tañon Strait waters.

“The issue here is not money, but truth, justice and accountability and the appropriate and just demand for just compensation. The P 20-billion fund will serve as seed fund for all rehabilitation efforts, including the economic and production needs of affected fisherfolk and coastal people,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

Pamalakaya proposed a cooperation body in the form of Task Force Tañon Strait Rehabilitation to manage and implement the rehabilitation works. The group aside from fisherfolk organizations, non-government organizations and representatives of affected coastal municipalities in Cebu and Negros Occidental, church, academic and environmental advocates should also be included in the independent task force.

Meanwhile, Pamana-Sugbo, the provincial chapter of Pamalakaya in Cebu 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.

Pamana-Sugbo chair Victor Lapaz said 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 Lapaz , the UN Special Rapporteur on the right food also want to know the Supreme Court action on the cases filed by his group, 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,” Lapaz added.

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.

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.#

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