Saturday, October 13, 2007

Recall of Japanese Mining Company’s ECC Urged (from

Recall of Japanese Mining Company’s ECC Urged

The Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center together with several small fisherfolk organizations in Cebu City have reiterated a long-standing demand for the recall of the Environmental Compliance Certificate issued by the Environmental Management Bureau-Central Visayas to the Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., Ltd.

Vol. VII, No. 36, October 14-20, 2007

The Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center (FIDEC) together with several small fisherfolk organizations in Cebu City have reiterated a long-standing demand for the recall of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)-Central Visayas to the Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., Ltd. (JAPEX).

FIDEC executive director Vince Cinches, in a recent interview, said they want JAPEX’s ECC recalled because it violates the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act, environmental impact assessment (EIA) laws, and the Fisheries Code of the Philippines.

The Department of Energy (DoE) Visayas Field Office recently announced that it will start oil exploration in Tanon Strait, in partnership with JAPEX, in November this year.

DoE Visayas Field Office Director Antonio Labios said they approved the JAPEX oil drilling project with a 1.5 kilometer territorial water radius in the Tanon Strait after the DENR granted it an ECC.

Areas to be affected by the oil exploration include most towns in mid-north and southwestern Cebu and on the Negros side, from Escalante City in Negros Occidental to as far as Sibulan town in Negros Oriental.

Environmental law violations

Cinches said the EMB must recall JAPEX’s ECC because of the company’s failure to conduct public hearings and consultations and other similar activities to present its environmental impact statement (EIS) for proper appreciation – a requirement, he said, since the EIA should study the ecological, geophysical and socio-economic impacts of the preparatory, operational and decommissioning phases of the activity.

Cinches cited Sec. 9 of Presidential Decree No. 1586, or the decree establishing an EIS System, which states that:

“Any person, corporation or partnership found violating Section 4 of this Decree, or terms and conditions in the issuance of the Environmental Protection Council pursuant to this Decree shall be punished by the suspension or cancellation of his/its certificate or and/or a fine in an amount not to exceed Fifty Thousand Pesos (50,000.00) for every violation thereof, at the discretion of the National Environmental Protection Council.”

The conduct of an EIA is a requirement under Philippine law. Sec. 4 of Presidential Decree No. 1151, or Philippine Environmental Policy, provides that “all agencies and instrumentalities of the national government, including government-owned or controlled corporations, as well as private corporations, firms and entities shall prepare, file and include in every action, project or undertaking which significantly affects the quality of the environment a detailed statement on:

“a. the environmental impact of the proposed action, project or undertaking;

“b. any adverse environmental effect which cannot be avoided should the proposal be implemented;

“c. alternative to the proposed action;

“d. a determination that the short-term uses of the resources of the environment are consistent with the maintenance and enhancement of the long-term productivity of the same; and

“e. whenever a proposal involves the use of depletable or nonrenewable resources, a finding must be made that such use and commitment are warranted.

Cinches also said that the DOE and EMB violated the NIPAS Law. “We note that the project is part (of) and within the Tanon Strait, (a) protected seascape under Presidential Decree No. 1234,” he said. “As such, the activity will also be governed by Republic Act No.7586, the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act.”

Section 20 of the NIPAS Act provides that “except as may be allowed by the nature of their categories and pursuant to rules and regulations governing the same, the following acts are prohibited within protected areas:

“(a) Hunting, destroying, disturbing, or mere possession of any plants or animals or products derived therefrom without a permit from the protected area management board;

“(b) Dumping of any waste products detrimental to the protected area, or to the plants and animals or inhabitants therein;

“(c) Constructing or maintaining any kind of structure fences or enclosures, conducting any business enterprise without a permit.”

Section 12 of the NIPAS Act further provides that:

“Proposals for activities which are outside the scope of the management plan for protected areas shall be subject to an environmental impact assessment as required by law before they are adopted, and the results thereof shall be taken into consideration in the decision making process. No actual implementation of such activities shall be allowed without the required ECC under the Philippine EIA system…”

Aside from violating the EIA laws and the NIPAS Act, Cinches said, JAPEX’s ECC also violates the Fisheries Code of the Philippines which protects the municipal waters – in this case the waters of Toledo City, Pinamungahan and Aloguinsan towns in Tanon Strait’s Cebu side, and Guihulngan and Vallehomoso towns in the Negros side – from the intrusion of offshore mining projects.

“This kind of project destroys the marine biodiversity, fish stocks, water pollution, air pollution, oil spills, and worse, the deprivation of small artisan fisherfolk from their main sources of livelihood,” Cinches said.

“We condemned DoE for pursuing the project despite evidences gathered during our environmental investigative mission (EIM) that the seismic survey conducted (in) 2005 has resulted in dramatic reduction of fish catch, also it resulted in fish kill, and health problems in the southwestern part of Cebu, particularly Toledo, Pinamungajan, and Aloguinsan,” he added. “Tourism activities such as dolphin watching and diving (in Bais and Cebu) were affected.”

He said that two years after their EIM, various marine species have yet to return for the season and fish catch continues to decline especially in Pinamungajan, Aloguinsan and Vallehermoso.

He slammed EMB for withholding related documents such as EIS, EIA and other bases for granting an ECC to JAPEX despite repeated formal requests from their office.

He however said that a copy of the said ECC which they got from former Environment Secretary Angel Alcala revealed that the DoE and EMB had only done initial environmental examination (IEE) of the impact of the project and not the complete and thorough EIS and EIA. “This is a serious deception and should be penalized,” he said.

In a separate statement, Alcala – who now heads Silliman University’s Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management – said the DoE and EMB’s survey of Tanon Strait “was extremely rapid, lacking in critical data essential for valid and meaningful comparisons in order to determine the impacts of the exploratory drilling.”

“It is clear that DoE and EMB are in cahoots with various environmentally destructive corporations when they decided to push through with seismic surveys last year,” Cinches said. “They are pushing for marine rehabilitation and protection while pursuing offshore mining.”

Socio-environmental costs

Cinches reiterated his group’s stand that offshore mining should be banned in the Visayas since the activity “will have great repercussions on marine supply, food security, local economy, and will dislocate thousands of already impoverished fisherfolk.”

Cinches also said that offshore mining “will strengthen the control of foreign monopoly corporations over our resources, since the service contract awarded to JAPEX will allow them 100-percent ownership and control on prospecting, mine development, and extraction.”

Cinches said that they are mobilizing the broadest network possible to resist and halt the JAPEX-DoE oil drilling in Tanon Strait. Bulatlat

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007


October 9 Press Statement of Alliance of Fisherfolk Against Off-Shore Mining, Defend our Sea Coalition, PAMANA Sugbo, Nagkahiusang Mannagat sa Tajao, Justice and Peace Center Silliman University, and FIDEC Inc.

We are not surprise why the Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR under Mr. Arranguez, despite repeated request, refused to give a copy to the public the basis why the Environmental Compliance Certificate was awarded to Japan Petroleum Exploration Inc.

We are not surprise at all why the EMB is shielding JAPEX from valid questioning and despite hard scientific evidences and first-hand data, went on pursuing various destructive projects in the waters around Central Visayas.

The EMB, DOE, and JAPEX stood as doting parents in the destructive seismic activities as a prelude to an even more destructive off-shore mining in the protected seascape of Tañon Strait.

After months of assuming the role of investigators and detectives we found a document – unfortunately for us; the fisherfolks, environmental advocates, and taxpayers – we found the Initial Environmental Evaluation was used to justify the released of the ECC to Japex instead of the more thorough and comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment and Statement.

We reviewed, evaluated, and weighed the IEE but found it wanting.

Despite scientific consensus – the proponent and their cohorts in the government will pursue drilling activities in the coming months, effectively dislocating thousands of fisherfolks, destroying our marine resources dubbed as the epicenter of global marine biodiversity, and affecting our food security.

We echo the points raised by the 1992 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Public Service and the present University Research Professor and Director of the Silliman University, Dr. Angel Alcala that the “IEE document wanting in the critical survey data and information needed for determining the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the proposed operation of JAPEX”

Enough of this utter Collusion and Deception, we give this marching order to various fisherfolk organizations in the region to conduct massive information campaign that will lead to mobilizing their sectors and other stakeholders as well against this project and other off-shore mining projects in the Visayas.

On the other hand we call on our national political figures to make a stand against these destructive and make urgent the house resolution calling for an investigation over off-shore mining in the Visayas. We urged them to stand against JPEPA as well, since JPEPA will serve as the backbone of the aggression of JAPEX in our waters.

We call on the Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) to withdraw its fund-support to JAPEX operation in the Philippines- your money will only increase poverty and environmental destruction in the region.

Enough of destruction and imperialist plunder. Ban Japex in Tañon Strait. Pursue Sustainable energy and use of our resources now.
Struggle for Genuine National Industrialization.

The Tañon Strait Oil and Gas Project

The Tañon Strait Oil and Gas Project

Dr. Angel C. Alcala

Sometime ago this year, an assistant secretary of the Department of Energy and a Japanese official of the Japan Petroleum Exploration co., Ltd. (JAPEX) came to see me in my office at the SU Angelo King Center for Research & Environmental Management to explain this project.

From that meeting, I gathered that this gas exploration project is planned to be carried out in the Tañon Strait off Aloguinsan and Pinamungajan, Cebu.

The direct impact area has a radius of 1.5 kms and the secondary impact area has a radius of five kms. The project will use a floater rig.

The project plans to drill this year a well 3,000 meters below the sea surface. Drill cuttings will not be discharged to the immediate area but will be collected and dumped into the sea elsewhere, I was told.

Because the project is exploratory, the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) is not necessary according to the DENR, and only an Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) is needed. A copy of this IEE was given to me for our review.

In this IEE, a list of five groups of data is presented in a table. Another table listed eight names that composed the EIA Study Team, some of them I know personally. It is assumed that the report of this team is the basis for the environmental and resource information discussed in the IEE. This information was reviewed by our team of marine biologists at SUAKCREM, which is the subject of today’s column.

Our review concluded that the environmental and resource survey was extremely rapid, lacking in critical data essential for valid and meaningful comparisons in order to determine the impacts of the exploratory drilling. The following discussion gives the details:

  1. The baseline data (DENR 7 PCRA) are too old and not suitable for the project. PCRA data are meant for use by stakeholder communities, and not suitable for the project, and a more detailed technical methodology was not presented. This is needed for an environmentally sensitive project such as this one. A more detailed technical assessment of marine habitats is required. The methodology has to be properly documented (examples, how many transects were surveyed by what procedures, density of fishes and other marine organisms per unit area, total number of target species, of indicator species, etc.)

Fish densities presented were too low – 2,000 fish individuals per square kilometer; we have found 2,000 individuals per 500 square meters around Cebu and Negros; something wrong here!

To put it bluntly, the methodology employed, and consequently, the data gathered, do not meet acceptable standards, cannot be used as baselines for future monitoring of drilling effects, and therefore, not acceptable.

  1. Of prime importance is the construction of a fisheries profile. For this, the IEE document should be clear on how the data are gathered so they can be verified for credibility in any future inquiry.

  1. On fish data composition (p.39, Chap. 5), technical data and graphs with units need to be presented so they can be compared to other existing data within the whole country.

  1. On catch composition per gear type, the data presented are old (2001). If the catch was this bad back in 2001, it is expected to be worse now. A proper catch per unit effort spans at least one year, and not done instantly. A detailed methodology was not presented in the study.

  1. Substrate types were not determined, and major coral growth forms were not reported including those most vulnerable to pollution such as sedimentation. Susceptibility of vulnerability indices of sites was not assessed.

  1. The disposal of drill cuttings presents a problem. One area identified is the Sulu Sea. But the Sulu Sea is a prime fishing area and has high biodiversity! Dumping cuttings into this sea unnecessarily creates additional problems.

In brief, we found the IEE document wanting in the critical survey data and information needed for determining the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the proposed drilling operation of JAPEX.