Monday, October 27, 2008

Int’l Mission: Off-shore Mining Violates Fisherfolk’s Right to Food and Livelihood’l-mission-off-shore-mining-violates-fisherfolk’s-right-to-food-and-livelihood/

Int’l Mission: Off-shore Mining Violates Fisherfolk’s Right to Food and Livelihood

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400,000 Central Visayas Fisherfolk Affected by Oil Exploration
Environmentalists Increasingly Anxious Over Effects of Mining in Davao Gulf
Golden Lessons of Lubo

An international fact-finding body, which recently visited communities affected by the off-shore oil and gas exploration along the Cebu-Bohol strait, revealed that the exploration would be detrimental to the livelihood of the fisherfolks in the area.


An international fact-finding body, which recently visited communities affected by the offshore oil and gas exploration along the Cebu-Bohol strait, revealed that the exploration would be detrimental to the livelihood of the fisherfolks in the area.
The offshore mining exploration is being undertaken by the Department of Energy (DoE) and Australian company, NorAsian Energy Ltd.

Vince Cinches, executive director of the Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center, Inc. (FIDEC) and a delegate of the International Fact-Finding Mission sponsored by the Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), revealed that in all the communities they visited in Pinamungajan, Aloguinsan, Argao and Sibonga, there has been a 70 to 80 percent reduction in fish catch. Because of the reduction in income, children of many fisherfolks have stopped schooling, while others are getting sick because of malnutrition.

Other delegates of the IFFM are Andry Wijaya of Jatam-Indonesia and the Oil Watch Southeast Asia; Teh Chun Hong of PAN AP; Wichoksak Ronnarongpairee and Busarin Pandit of the Federation of Southern Fisherfolk (Thailand); Gilbert Sape of the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS); and, Meggie Nolasco of Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Philippines).

Cinches, who is also co-convenor of the environmental group Save Tañon Strait Citizens’ Movement (STSCM) pointed out that the Visayas is the epicenter of global marine shorefish diversity with the “richest concentration of marine life in the entire planet.”

He said that the presence of NorAsian or JAPEX, is detrimental to the marine biodiversity in the area as the sonic boom from the air gun used in the seismic survey would result in damage to the body tissues of marine organisms, including their reproductive systems.

In addition, the noise that would be made could alter the distribution of fish by tens of kilometers.

“You should keep the oil underground and let fisherfolks have their means of livelihood,” said Andry Wijaya of Jatam-Indonesia and Oil Watch Southeast Asia (Indonesia).

Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos of STSCM asserted that drilling is a violation of the concept of social justice as provided for by the constitution. She added that the fisherfolks should have the supreme right to the use of fishing grounds.

Cinches said that because of strong opposition from different local governments in Bohol and the affected communities, NorAsian was forced to transfer their base of operations in Cebu by mid 2007. He said that Cebuanos should not permit what the Boholanos have rejected.

Paulita Destor of Bol-anong Kahugpungan sa mga Kabus nga Mananagat (Bokkana-Bohol) said that the exploration along the Cebu-Bohol Strait should be stopped as this would destroy the rich marine resources of the strait. This in turn would further bring the fisherfolks deeper into poverty.

Representatives from oil-producing countries Malaysia and Indonesia claimed that the presence of oil producing companies would not help in the country’s economy.
“Malaysia is a petroleum exporting country,” said Teh Chung Hong of Malaysia-based PAN-AP. “Forty percent of our income is from petroleum. But despite this our country still imposed a forty percent increase in the price of oil. Malaysia’s experience is that petroleum money will not bring benefit to people, even for oil-producing countries,” he said.

He further cited the example of Sarawak and Teranganu, which produces most of Malaysia’s oil. He said that these two states are also Malaysia’s poorest.

In response, Antonio E. Labios, regional director of the Department of Energy (DoE) Visayas Field Office, said that the claims of the fisherfolks regarding the reduction in fish catch is yet to be validated and substantiated by scientific studies.
Cinches said that Cebuanos should not wait for scientific studies to be made for this claim to be substantiated as the experience of the fisherfolks is enough evidence to prove the ill-effects of the survey.

Labios said that 12 of the 14 barangays of Argao have passed resolutions endorsing the project and that meetings with the mayors of Argao and Sibonga, as well as that of the governor have shown that they are supportive with the project. “We just have to address the issues of the fisherfolks,” he said.

However, the four-day IFFM further discovered that the communities as well as local government officials were not consulted by the mining companies before entering the seas, in violation of several Philippine laws. It was also disturbed by reports that some local government officials are involved in unethical relations with the mining companies and that the military has been deployed in certain areas to intimidate and quell the growing citizens’ movement against off-shore mining.

Labios further claimed that based on their consultation with the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) is not required for NorAsian to conduct the survey as said document is only needed once production is started.
Regardless, NorAsian and JAPEX did their best to comply with environmental guidelines, which includes consultation with various stakeholders, claimed Labios.

Labios said that they would soon be signing a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Municipalities of Argao and Sibonga so as to lift the recent cease and desist order imposed by the provincial government of Cebu as per Executive Order No. 09 signed by Governor Gwendolyn Garcia.

Labios said that the purpose of the seismic survey is to minimize if not eliminate the environmental impact once the oil drilling is started.
“The DoE and the service contractor do not shy away in addressing the concern of the fisherfolk,” Labios said.

“It is disturbing to know that the Philippine government is hell-bent on pursuing these so-called energy development projects despite the overwhelming opposition of citizens, especially the poor fisherfolk who are the most affected. We have seen in Asia and many parts of the globe that at the end of the day, these would only benefit the companies and corrupt government officials. History shows that oil doesn’t translate to wealth of the people,” said Sape of the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS). (

Thursday, October 23, 2008

NGO: Stop oil, gas search in Argao

NGO: Stop oil, gas search in Argao
By Ma. Bernadette A. Parco
Cebu Daily News
First Posted 08:51:00 10/23/2008

A fact-finding monitoring team composed of non-government organizations (NGO) from Asian countries called on the national government to end oil exploration activities in the Visayas.

In their manifesto, the Mining Network and Oil Watch-Southeast Asia said they denounce the “unconstitutionality of the oil and gas exploration activities” in Central Visayas as experienced by the affected fisherfolks and their families.

Convenor Andry Wijaya said fisherfolks and their families were displaced as a result of the offshore drilling.

“Their children no longer go to school as a result of the reduced fish catch,” he said.

The team announced the results of a study co-sponsored by the Pesticide Action Network in Asia and the Pacific (PAN-AP) and the Fisherfolks Development Center (Fidec).

He also scored the failure or refusal of the government agencies to enforce the law.

The study done in the Cebu towns of Pinamungajan, Aloguinsan, Argao and Sibonga centered on the effects of offshore mining done by Japex Philippines Inc. on Tañon Strait and NorAsian at the Cebu-Bohol Strait.

Fidec director Vince Cinches said the fisherfolk in Pinamungajan and Aloguinsan towns told the team that their fish catch didn't improve even after Japex left the area.

He said the fishermen only catch one to two kilos of fish per day, a sharp drop from the 15 to 20 kilos caught per day prior to the seismic survey and drilling operations in 2005 and 2007.

Argao fisherfolk also reported a decrease in fish yield due to the oil exploration activities of NorAsian Energy Ltd. at the Cebu-Bohol Strait, Cinches added.

Regional Director Antonio Labios of the Department of Energy in Central Visayas (DOE-7) said the agency is validating the claims of fisherfolk that their livelihood is affected by the NorAsian oil exploration activities.

“Fish catch, according to the fishermen, is also affected by the season. The decrease in fish yield could also be permanent or temporary. We have to find that out,” he told reporters yesterday.

“We would get baseline data from the municipal fisheries and the BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources),” Labios said.

Labios said the target of the project is Argao town and that the agency already secured approval from 11 out of 14 barangays in the town.

Labios also admitted that there was no public consultation conducted on the NorAsian project.

“Oil exploration is not yet covered by the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system, so there is no consultation required (for the activity),” the regional DOE-7 director said.

International Fact-Finding Mission Team joint manifestation - STOP OIL EXPLORATION NOW!


We are brothers and sisters from the ASEAN Region bonded by a shared aspiration and sentiment - that of a world where our rights to life, livelihood, health, safety, and a healthy environment are respected, not just by government but by fellow humans, and entities, denounce the oil and gas exploration activities by foreign transnational corporations as pushed by the national government and its agencies and call for the stoppage of these activities.

We appeal to the government to seriously integrate sustainability in its programs and projects and do away with the policy of double speak. Mouthing calls for the people to reduce energy consumption and the use of fossil fuels while heavily promoting offshore drilling and mining is a clear example.

So much is at stake. The poorest of the poor - the small fisherfolks, farmers and their families- are suffering the most as a result of the displacement caused by offshore drilling and the failure or refusal of government agencies to enforce the laws. Their children no longer go to school as a result of the reduced fish catch and the loss of soil fertility of due to agricultural policies that promote the use of harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticide. There is so much anxiety for what the future holds for them. They too deserve a life of dignity and honor.

In our stay here, we verify the studies conducted by different scientific groups and fact-finding missions, as attestation to the direct experiences of fisherfolk and coastal area residents of Central Visayas. It has already been established that oil and gas and exploration activities have grave negative impacts on the environment and ultimately on the livelihood and welfare of those affected.

We denounce the unconstitutionality of the oil and gas exploration activities and their intrusion on the municipal waters and bypassing the authority of local government units and apparent lack of environmental safeguards.

We condemn the underhanded methods and human rights violations of the corporations, which include legal and military harassments to those opposing the projects, with the permission of the national government to take advantage of the natural resources.
Sustainable programs such as sustainable agriculture and authentic eco-tourism participated in by the community should be mainstreamed. Sustainability is the key to full human development, and not-dole outs, which encourage corruption, dependency and political patronage.

Oil Exploration does not bring economic prosperity to hosts communities, as experienced by our colleagues representing oil producing countries and it is a warning that we as local people should heed. Oil corporations and their backers in the DOE is only deceiving the Visayans.

We call on the government and stakeholders to craft and implement measures to reduce oil dependency and carbon emission, and to mitigate the impact of climate change. Residents of developing nations such as the Philippines are its worst victims. Reducing our carbon imprints is a moral responsibility for all.

We are warning corporations that would attempt to drill and explore in Central Visayas in the future, that they will be met with intensified opposition from different sectors and organizations in the local, national and international level. We, the undersigned, will not tolerate these intended plunderers and exploiters of our natural resources and would exhaust all means to permanently bring an end to those that threaten of rob us of our sovereignty and patrimony.

The Rule of Law must remain paramount and prevail. Government has a duty to implement the social justice provisions of the Constitution and constantly safeguard the people’s rights. Militarization and imposing a culture of fear among the constituents is never the answer.

We demand for the accountability of the foreign corporations-name of companies- and the national government to pay the damages and give the victims just compensation for the days the company’s activities have affected them negatively up to the time the marine life and ecology goes back to its healthy state.

We immediately demand for the following:

1. Immediately Stop oil and gas exploration in Central Philippines and a moratorium on all future oil and gas exploration;

2. immediately pursue on-site congressional investigation to identify other violations the activity brought and to Make DOE, NorAsian, JAPEX, and others involve accountable for the havoc they brought in the communities in Cebu, Bohol, and Negros;

3. Stop Militarization in the communities of Argao and Sibonga;

4. Courts should make speedy resolutions to cases filed by the fisherfolks and marine mammals in Central Philippines and other legal cases aimed at protecting our resources from foreign plunder and dislocation of food producers.
In the era where global warming and climate change is threatening the survival of poor communities, it is irresponsible for corporations and government leaders to profit from the misery of poor Filipinos.

We call on our leaders to stop the havoc of oil and gas exploration.

Delegates, International Fact Finding Mission (October 19 – 23, 2008):

Meggie Nolasco, Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Philippines)

Andry Wijaya, Jatam-Indonesia and the Oil Watch Southeast Asia (Indonesia)

Teh Chung Hong, Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (Malaysia)

Gilbert Sape, People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty (Malaysia)

Wichoksak Ronnarongpairee, Federation of Southern Fisherfolk (Thailand)

Busarin Pandit, Federation of Southern Fisherfolk (Thailand)

Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos (Philippines)

Michael Aliño (Philippines)

Vince Cinches (Philippines)

Thursday, October 16, 2008



October 16, 2008


Executive Order Nos. 9, released by Gov. Gwen Garcia ordering the Department of Energy and it’s cohorts in destroying our marine environment and dislocating the rights of fisherfolks to stop it’s destructive activities is nevertheless a victory.

EO No. 9 should make these money hungry personnel to rethink the basis of their support to oil mining, and should start to make plans in pursuing the path to sustainable development and renewable energy.

We in our network, still stand firm that oil mining will compromise the integrity of our marine resources, bring irreparable damage to our ecosystem, threaten our food security, dislocate thousands of fisherfolks, and hasten global warming and climate change. We also re-affirm the studies of various economists that oil exploration will not solve Philippine oil supply crisis and the skyrocketing of petroleum prices, Philippine oil industry is deregulated and 90% of our oil is owned by foreign corporations such as SPEX, Chevron and Texaco.

However, we will work to make the impact of the Executive Order permanent and work for the total and absolute ban of oil mining activities in Central Philippines - the epicenter of global marine biodiversity.
This victory will not make us become complacent.

We demand that DOE and NorAsian be held accountable, it is high time that we need to enforce fully the strength of our law, by putting them behind bars and making them pay for the immediate and irreparable damage they have caused.

We congratulate the fisherfolks and our environmental network for their untiring work against DOE and NorAsian.

We already warned DOE and NorAsian from the start that they will suffer the same fate as JAPEX. They just don’t know how to listen.

Vince A. A. Cinches
STSCM Co-convenor

Garcia orders DOE to stop exploration

photo by GIBBster at

Local News

Garcia orders DOE to stop exploration

Thursday, October 16, 2008
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia ordered the Department of Energy Regional Office-7 to halt the oil exploration surveys and other related works in the municipalities of Sibonga and Argao.

In her Executive Order No. 09, Garcia ordered the regional office of the DOE-7 to cease and desist from its activities until such time that required consultations shall be made and the legitimate concerns will be addressed.

“It is hereby ordered, the Department of Energy Regional Office 7, its officers, agents and all other persons acting for and on behalf, to cease and desist from continuing in the conduct of any and all oil exploration surveys and other related works in the seabed and seawaters of the municipalities of Argao and Sibonga, both of the Province of Cebu, until such time that the required consultations shall be made and all legitimate concerns of the concerned parties shall have been properly addressed,” Garcia said in her order.

The governor said the activities of the DOE were undertaken without consultation with all parties concerned, particularly the provincial government and the towns of Argao and Sibonga.

Garcia said that the activities have violated Section 2 of Republic Act 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991.

Under the law, it was likewise the policy of the State to “require all national agencies and offices to conduct periodic consultations with appropriate local government units, non-governmental and people’s organizations, and other concerned sectors of the community before any project or program is implemented in their respective jurisdictions.”

In her executive order, Garcia also ordered the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, and other law enforcement agencies of the government to implement the cease-and-desist order.

The DOE regional office, Cebu Provincial Police Office, Philippine Navy, and the Offices of the Mayor of the municipalities of Argao and Sibonga were furnished with copies of the said order.

“The activities of the DOE have greatly affected some fishermen in the area whose fishing implements/gears have been damaged and/or lost as a result, thereby greatly jeopardizing their only means of livelihood and their future,” Garcia’s order further read.

The fishermen have already complained that they were “driven away every time the vessel carrying survey equipment would pass through their town’s waters.” They said that a vessel of the Coast Guard would reportedly often lead the survey vessel.

NorAsia, an Australian oil and gas explorer, will fund and operate oil and gas exploration activities in the tradition of Tañon Strait offshore mining including Cebu-Bohol Strait and Argao, which is the latest target for oil drilling.

Seismic surveys were first conducted in the waters off the coastal barangays of Simala, Bagakay, Bahay, and Poblacion last year.

The company reportedly gave financial assistance worth P1,500 each to at least 200 fishermen who were asked to temporarily leave the survey area. Owners of fish traps were paid P8,000 to P10,000 each. —Garry B. Lao/MEEV

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.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Execs urged: Act on river pollution

Execs urged: Act on river pollution
By Bernadette Parco
Cebu Daily News
First Posted 16:05:00 10/06/2008

CEBU CITY, Philippines - Environmentalists called on local government officials in Toledo City to actively monitor the ecosystem in the area following reports that a mining company discharged wastewater into the Sapangdaku River.

“We are calling on the local government units to take on the shared responsibility of ensuring a safe environment for constituents and protect our marine ecosystem,” said environmental lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos.

She said the process and standard of issuing and renewing business permits to companies that continue to pollute the environment should be reviewed.

Ramos referred to a complaint by residents of Barangay (village) Cambang-ug that mine tailings from the Carmen Copper Corp. (CCC) have leaked into the upstream portion of the Sapandaku River.

She questioned whether there were any measures undertaken to ensure compliance from CCC on environmental procedures and standards.
“This is another wake up call for everyone to do their share in protecting the lives of people and our threatened biodiversity,” she said.

Ramos said the LGUs should procure equipment that could be used to monitor the quality of water in the area.

Residents of Barangay Cambang-ug complained that water at the Sapangdaku River has become turbid.

They suspected that wastewater was discharged into the Hinulawan River, located upstream from the Sapangdaku River.

Save Tanon Strait Citizen's Movement (STSCM) member Vince Cinches said the area has been the site of environmental disasters in previous years.

“Toledo (City) has become the toxic playground of polluting firms in Cebu. The city should get their act together now and make the corporation accountable,” he told Cebu Daily News.

“They should not wait until the community will pay with their lives. The community should prevent the repetition of (this kind of) tragedies,” he added.

The CCC, a subsidiary of Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corp. (ACMDC), started operations recently after securing fresh capital.

Mining operations were suspended in 1994 because of financial difficulties.

In 1999, Atlas Mining was penalized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Central Visayas (DENR-7) for dumping 5.7 million cubic meters of sulfuric acid into the Sapangdaku River, causing massive fish kill in the area.

CCC vice president and resident manager Rodrigo Cal said the waste discharge was unintentional since it was caused by a leak in their pipelines.
Cal said they are working to seal the leakages and desilt the river. /With a story from Reporter Doris C. Bongcac