Friday, September 19, 2008

Sibonga mayor says no to more oil exploration

Sibonga mayor says no to more oil exploration

Cebu Daily News
First Posted 11:23am (Mla time) 09/19/2008
UNLESS he is shown proper documentation, Sibonga Mayor Lionel Bacaltos said he would no longer allow seismic survey to be conducted within their municipal waters.

Anyone, who violates this directive, will be arrested, the mayor said.
“I was insulted with what they did because they did not cooperate with us,” Bacaltos said of NorAsia Energy Ltd., an energy company that had been conducting studies of the waters of southeastern Cebu in hopes of finding commercially viable oil.

Bacaltos said the foreign firm had conducted seismic surveys in the town's waters, at least eight kilometers from the shore, since last year without coordinating with the town government.

While Bacaltos said he did not want to interfere in the project's implementation, he also wanted to make sure that the firm had the proper permits and certifications.

Unless those permits were shown to the town government, particularly those from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Energy (DOE), Bacaltos said he would not allow the seismic survey to continue.

Bacaltos issued the warning during a meeting he called yesterday with representative from the DOE who also represented NorAsia, the town police chief, and fishermen.

He said he wanted to be certain that the project would not affect the livelihood of the town's fishermen.

While the mayor said he was not a party to the survey's implementation, he had been receiving criticisms for it.

He said fishermen complained that they were driven away every time the vessel carrying the survey equipment would pass through the town's waters. Fishermen said a coastguard vessel would often lead the survey vessel.

Fishermen thought the survey was conducted with his approval, Bacaltos said.

“I already told the fisherfolk 'I'm on your side.' I will help them in seeking financial compensation for the inconvenience that they have suffered, but I would not also want to fight the national government over the project implementation,” he said.

Bacaltos said NorAsia first conducted seismic surveys along the coastal waters of barangays Simala, Bagakay, Bahay and Poblacion in 2007.

The company gave financial assistance of P1,500 each to at least 200 fishermen who were asked to temporary leave the survey area.

Owners of fish traps were paid P8,000 to P10,000 each.

Bacaltos said fishermen complained after the company refused to release compensation to those affected by this year's survey, which were conducted on Sept. 5 and 12. /REPORTER DORIS C. BONGCAC

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