Sunday, October 12, 2008

Gwen to NorAsia, DOE

Gwen to NorAsia, DOE
‘Address concerns before ocean surveys’
By Doris C. Bongcac
Cebu Daily News
First Posted 13:44:00 10/10/2008
Most Read

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said yesterday that she would not allow the conduct of oceanographic surveys in the seas off Argao and Sibonga unless concerns raised on the conduct of these surveys are addressed.

Apologies by Department of Energy in Central Visayas (DOE-7) regional director Antonio Labios and NorAsia Energy Ltd. representatives did little to appease the irate governor during a meeting yesterday.

“No more surveys unless you come up with and show us a clear system wherein there will be no more miscommunication,” Garcia told Labios and NorAsia officials.

“You will coordinate and (you will give) immediate compensation to the affected fisher folks.”

Garcia also warned that continued disregard of local concerns will affect NorAsia's “future relationships” with the province.

The governor met DOE-7 and NorAsia officials in a closed-door meeting yesterday at the governor’s conference room at the Cebu Provincial Capitol. The meting was also attended by Argao Mayor Edsel Galeos and Sibonga Mayor Lionel Bacaltos.

Garcia reprimanded NorAsia officials, led by Kristoffer Fellowes, and energy officials on their failure to properly coordinate with the two mayors in conducting oil exploration surveys last month.

Garcia ordered the surveys suspended on Sept. 22.

“You just sent us letters (to inform us of your activities). Is that the way you operate?” Garcia asked.

Labios, said there was a simple “miscommunication” in DOE’s dealings with Galeos and Bacaltos.

The national government, through the DOE, supervised the conduct of the oceanographic surveys, which were preludes to exploratory drilling that NorAsia plans to implement early next year.

The foreign company is in search of oil and gas deposits in the coastal waters of southeastern Cebu.

Letters were sent to Garcia, Galeos and Bacaltos on Sept. 1 informing them of the oceanographic survey.

The next day, a site survey was conducted in Argao waters. On Sept. 4, the survey moved to Sibonga.

The survey resulted in the relocation of payao or floating fish traps of some fishermen because these were blocking the way of the survey vessels.

Bacaltos said he cautioned DOE-7 that the survey should not be conducted unless the concerns of affected fishermen were addressed.

He said the only reply he was given was that the regional office would refer the matter to its national office.

Galeos, for his part, said fishermen in Argao wanted to be compensated for their lost income.

“Almost all of our coastal barangays were affected. But in fairness, NorAsia and DOE did apologize and they are willing to come up with a system to address our miscommunications,” Galeos said.

Labios told the governor that he would make sure that communication gaps are addressed.

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