Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fluvial protest greets Visayan oil exploration project

Fluvial protest greets Visayan oil exploration project
By Kit Bagaipo, Jhunnex Napallacan
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 20:56:00 09/08/2008

TAGBILARAN CITY, Philippines -- Some 300 fishermen from Sibonga and Argao held a fluvial parade Monday morning to protest the offshore oil exploration of NorAsian Energy Ltd. in the Cebu-Bohol Strait.

Wilbert Dimol of Pamana-Sugbo told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of that although the actual oil drilling had yet to start, NorAsian has been conducting the second phase of its survey to erect its oil rig.

The fluvial protest, which started at 9 a.m. Monday, aimed to surround the site where seismic tests would be conducted by NorAsian oil and gas exploration ships, Dimol said in a telephone interview.

He also alleged that the NorAsian ordered the dismantling of the fishermen's payaos or fish traps.

But Department of Energy (DoE) Visayas director Antonio Labios clarified that NorAsian has been doing a location site survey, not a seismic survey, which was completed in 2007.

It would have to locate the drill site before the actual drilling could be done in the first quarter of 2009, Labios said.

"The seabed must be examined to find out if there are obstructions like shallow gas. Shallow gas is dangerous as it could explode if hit," Labios explained.

Labios said the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) cleared the location site survey.

He added that the ongoing survey would not damage the marine environment.

On the issue of dismantled fish pens, Labios said the fish pens were deliberately placed in the area to obstruct the ongoing location site survey.

Before the NorAsian vessel conducted the survey, he said, the company cleared the area and even paid P10,000 to each fish pen owner in the Sibonga area.

However, Labios said the NorAsian people were surprised when several fish pens went up on September 4.

NorAsian, a wholly owned subsidiary of Australian firm Otto Energy, won a service contract to explore parts of the Cebu-Bohol Straits in the Visayan Basin, which was considered to be highly prospective but under-explored.

In an advisory given to the DoE, Otto reported that it has been raising $11.02 million to fund the oil drilling off Argao, Cebu side and near Cabilao Island in Loon, Bohol side.

The DoE has likewise approved the exploration work programs of Otto giving the Australian firm until March 2009 to drill the first wells at the strait.

In an interview on September 1, 2008 that was posted on the company website, Otto Energy chief executive officer Alex Parks cited Argao as an attractive prospect with eight potential oil reservoirs.

In the same interview, Parks said its subsidiary NorAsian Energy would start drilling the area under its service contract in the first half of 2009.

He also disclosed that they have been targeting an area north of Argao called Bahay with similar characteristics to Argao.

Parks said that Argao and Bahay had a pre-drill estimate of over 100 million barrels of recoverable oil.

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