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Fishers group warns environmental catastrophe on UK oil and gas hunt near Spratly islands

By Ridley McHammer in London, United Kingdom and Gerry Albert Corpuz and Queen Shawn Dok in Manila

Fisherfolk activists belonging to the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Friday warned the Department of Energy (DoE) of a major environmental catastrophe in Palawan and neighbor Spratly islands once it allows the United Kingdom oil and gas exploration group to proceed off the waters of Palawan province near the disputed Kalayaan group of islands.

In a press statement Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap urged energy secretary Angelo Reyes to immediately cancel Geophysical Survey and Exploration Contract (GSEC) No.101 also known as Sercice Contract no.72 (SC72) was awarded to UK firm Forum Energy Plc. The exploration contract grants the London-based oil and gas company the right to conduct offshore mining that covers 880,000 hectares of marine waters located in the Red Bank basin in Palawan or 150 kilometers east of Spratlys group of islands.

“The project is heading us to a major environmental catastrophe in the making. Imagine 880,000 hectares of marine waters will be sacrificed anew for this extreme greed of powerful corporations for super profits at the expense of national patrimony, people’s rights to livelihood, and sound and sustainable environment,” Hicap lamented.

The Pamalakaya leader said the offshore mining activity might result to huge decline in the production of fishes and other marine products in the country. Hicap said offshore mining in the Visayan Sea and Palawan alone could lead to decline of year fish production by 600,000 metric tons or 20 percent decline annually, and it would affect the livelihood of not less than 100,000 fisherfolk and the 500,000 people largely dependent on fishing as means of livelihood.

Forum Energy said the service contract they obtained from DoE is within 200 nautical miles of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) based on Republic Act 9522, or the Philippine Archipelagic Baseline Law passed by Congress last year.

Citing the impacts of oil and gas exploration of Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. Ltd. (Japex) in Tanon Strait, a protected seascape separating the island provinces of Cebu and Negros, Pamalakaya said fish catch was drastically reduced by 67 to 75 percent from a high of 15-20 kilos average catch per day to 3-5 kilos of fish per day due to offshore mining.

In a fact finding mission conducted two years ago, Pamalakaya said fish skills occurred in several barangays in Cebu and Negros during and after the seismic surveys. The militant group also cited previous studies on the effect of offshore mining which said that an oil exploration activity generates 214,000 pounds of air pollution every year, 50 tons of nitrogen oxides, 13 tons of carbon monoxide and 6 tons of sulfur dioxide and 5 tons of volatile organic hydrocarbons.

Pamalakaya said drilling operations could produce 1,500 metric tons to 2,000 metric tons of highly toxic water waste materials per drilling. The group said other toxic materials which oil and gas exploration could produce include cadmium which causes lung cancer, lead which causes gastrointestinal diseases, blood and kidney disorders, mental retardation and affects the nervous system, chromium which causes lung and liver cancers, kidney and other respiratory illnesses, and arsenic which causes lung, liver and skin cancers.

This is not the first time oil and gas exploration activity will be conducted in Reed Bank. The bank has been subject of numerous exploration hunts in the past under the Philippine contractual regime and Presidential Decree 87. The first petroleum contract in the area was awarded by the then Ministry of Energy in 1975.

Forum Energy holds a 70-percent stake in GSEC 101, which is the company’s principal asset, while Monte Oro Resources & Energy Inc. owns the rest. The government initially awarded GSEC 101 to Sterling Energy Plc in June 2002. Sterling drilled four wells at the southwest end of the structure. Two of the wells tested gas at rates of 3.6 million cubic feet and 3.2 million cubic feet per day, respectively. With reports from Akihira Tatchu

Anakpawis Rep. Joel Maglunsod had authored a resolution seeking an investigation on impacts of offshore mining in Visayan Sea

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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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Fishers group ask Japex to set aside

Fishers group ask Japex to set aside
P 20-billion for Tañon Strait rehab

The militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Wednesday asked owners of the offshore mining group Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. Ltd. (Japex) to set aside some P 20-billion for the rehabilitation of Tañon Strait.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the P 20-billion fund will be set aside for the environmental repair and economic rehabilitation of the protected seascape separating the island provinces of Cebu and Bohol, 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 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 could be created to manage and implement the rehabilitation works. The group said 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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UN special rapporteur on food begins inquiry on Tañon Strait offshore mining —- Pamalakaya report

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.#

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