By Sarsi Pimentel, Pepsi Laloma and Gerry Albert Corpuz
MANILA, Philippines-The activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday asked US President Barack Obama to extend his order to suspend all offshore mining activities in American territorial waters to foreign waters like Sulu where ExxonMobil is currently undertaking a $ 110-million oil and gas exploration.
Obama recently suspended all offshore mining activities following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill where 20 million gallons are now estimated to have leaked since the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded on April 20 and sank, killing 11 workers. Since the spill started, an estimated 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of crude have leaked into the Gulf each day, which environmentalists described as worst environmental disaster in US history.
The massive oil spill in Gulf of Mexico prompted US lawmakers to file a bill demanding a permanent ban on all offshore drilling across the United States. At least 6 Democrat senators — Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of California, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington sponsored the controversial measure.
In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap advised Obama to also issue an executive order calling ExxonMobil and other US-owned offshore mining companies doing oil and gas explorations abroad to call off explorations following the BP oil spill.
“Mr. Obama can issue an order calling ExxonMobil to back out from its oil and gas expedition off Sulu Sea. The White House current occupant can issue black and white order commanding ExxonMobil to back off from its oil deal with the Philippine government,” the Pamalakaya leader said.
Hicap said his group was apprehensive of the project’s impact on the livelihoods of fishing communities in Palawan, Western Visayas, Zamboanga peninsula and Sulu archipelago.
Pamalakaya said the Sulu Sea, in the southwest Philippines, connects the South China Sea and the Celebes Sea and is considered to be on the route of tuna and other schools of fish leaving or going to the Pacific Ocean.
The militant group claimed that the approval of the ExxonMobil exploration deal was “just a preview of the forthcoming RP-US Free Trade Agreement, which the incoming presidency of leading presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy”Aquino III is expected to yield to the Obama administration in recognition of the US top officials support to Aquino before , during and after the May 10 presidential elections.
Pamalakaya theorized ExxonMobil, a major world player, would not go to a country where the potential is not great. The militant group recalled that ExxonMobil officials US oil firm officials led by Stephen Greenlee said the plan to explore for oil and gas in Sulu was a big deal for the company, and that ExxonMobil was encouraged by preliminary seismic data on the potential of oil and gas reserves in the Sulu Sea.
Aside from ExxonMobil, Pamalakaya said Australian mining firm NorAsia was also reportedly set to conduct oil explorations in the Cebu-Bohol Strait, while Dutch-owned Premium Oil will also launch offshore explorations in the Ragay Gulf of Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Quezon . #