Friday, November 28, 2008


We would like to thank all the organizations who participated in the recent International Fact-Finding Mission in Central Visayas last October 20 – 23, 2008.

Partnerships will always result to success and victories


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lawyers join call to stop oil drilling

Lawyers join call to stop oil drilling

Cebu Daily News
First Posted 08:13am (Mla time) 11/23/2008
ANOTHER voice was added to the opposition against drilling for natural oil and gas in south Cebu proposed by a foreign firm.

The Cebu Provincial Board approved on Nov. 17 a resolution supporting the call of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Cebu chapter to stop the oil exploration project of Norasian Corp. Ltd. off the coastal waters of Sibonga and Argao towns “unless it can prove that the project does not destroy the environment.”

The PB said it wanted to be certain that all legal requirements for the conduct of oil exploration are met and that consultation is conducted with the affected fisherfolk.

PB Member Victor Maambong, the resolution sponsor, said that while Cebu “urgently needs to develop our own sources of energy especially in this critical time of global economic crisis, it must be done with the least possible damage to our environment and with utmost respect to the human rights of the marginalized members of the community who stand to be adversely affected by this development.”

Sibonga Mayor Lionel Bacaltos said that he too was against the conduct of an oil drilling unless consultation is done with the affected fisherfolk and compensation is assured for them for any inconvenience suffered during the exploration.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia ordered the suspension of the oil exploration by Norasian in the absence of consultation with the affected Local Government Units (LGU) and fisherfolk.

The Department of Energy (DOE) drafted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that stipulates the foreign firm’s responsibilities to the affected LGU and fishermen.

Mayor Balcatos said he is not inclined to sign this.

“They haven’t come here yet for a consultation. I will not sign the MOU and the governor said that she will not lift the suspension order unless there is consultation,” he said.
Maambong said in his resolution that Norasia failed to secure permits from the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Earlier an EMB official said that the exploration was “exemptable” based on DOE administrative order no. 30 which was passed in 2006.

“Fisherfolk in the towns of Argao and Sibonga, Cebu are complaining that their livelihood is affected by the oil exploration project, more so, that they are also experiencing harassment from both the government and private sectors,” said Maambong’s resolution. REPORTER DORIS C. BONGCAC

Energy officials face suit

Energy officials face suit
By Vincent Mayol, Carine M. Asutilla
Cebu Daily News
First Posted 02:18pm (Mla time) 11/19/2008

CEBU CITY, Philippines - A group of environmentalists on Tuesday filed a complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas against officials of the Department of Energy in Central Visayas for allegedly denying them entry into the DOE-7 offices last Friday.

Environment lawyers Gloria Estenzo Ramos and Benjamin Cabrido led members of the Save Tañon Strait Citizens’ Movement in filing the complaint for violation of citizen’s rights and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials.

DOE-7 director Antonio Labios and Energy Industry Management Chief Saul Gonzales were named as respondents.

The complaint stated that the group went to the DOE-7 office along Osmeña Boulevard last Friday to deliver a demand letter and “hopefully discuss” with energy officials the complaints of fisherfolk from the town of Sibonga, southern Cebu, over offshore oil exploration in the town’s waters.

The complainants said the guard of the Metrobank Building’s lobby stopped the group from entering the building.

The guard called the DOE-7 office and informed them of the group’s presence. The guard later told the group that Labios was not around and that the group was not allowed to proceed to the DOE-7 office on the 11th floor.

The guard allegedly threatened to turn off the power to the elevators if they insisted on going up.

Cabrido talked with someone from the DOE-7 office through the guard’s phone. The DOE-7 personnel told Cabrido that he was not authorized to receive the letter.

The guard later told the group that only two people could proceed to the DOE-7 office.

Ramos, however, insisted that if the group could not go up to the office, then someone from DOE-7 should come down and meet the group.

Gonzales, who served as acting DOE-7 director in Labios’ absence, later came out and received the letter. He also explained that the group was not allowed up because the DOE-7 office was too small to accommodate them.

The complainants, however, said they were treated with “gross disrespect and subjected to humiliation and indignity.”

Ramos said their rights were violated because government officials were supposed to make the lives of people better through service.

She described the DOE-7 officials’ actions as “unprofessional, discriminatory, unjust discourteous and callous.”

Cabrido said that as a public office, DOE-7 should allow the public to enter their offices.

Cabrido said the group was considering filing a complaint against the DOE-7 officials with the Civil Service Commission. He said he would ask the commission to subject DOE-7 officials and employees to a seminar on conduct and what it is to be a public servant.

Gov't needs to pursue oil explorations at sea: DOE’t-needs-pursue-oil-explorations-sea-doe

Gov't needs to pursue oil explorations at sea: DOE

AMID protests by some sectors, the government will continue to pursue oil exploration at sea to reduce the country’s dependence on imported fuel. This is also in line with the country’s policy called the Philippine Energy Independence.

Department of Energy Visayas Director Antonio Labios explained this to members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines during a dialogue.

Labios said several sectors have been badly affected by the rise in the price of imported fuel in the past few months.

The hardest hit is the transport sector, which consumes 35 percent of the fuel supply.

“Our dependence on oil can trigger all economic happenings and the implications of any oil crisis include high cost of production, high fares and high salary rates. So, we are doing our best to find our own energy supply,” Labios said.

He said the reason DOE is in the frontline of the oil drilling projects is that the state owns the energy resources and his agency has the mandate to issue service contracts.

In the case of oil exploration in the Cebu-Bohol Strait, Labios said Nor-Asian is the service contractor, through the Philippine Energy Contracting Ground on oil.

Lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos of the Save Tañon Strait Citizens Movement questioned the oil exploration of Nor-Asian because it will allegedly destroy the environment and will displace fisherfolk in the southern towns of Sibonga and Argao.

Labios said that before a service contract is issued, the DOE checks the contractor’s records of environmental compliance in previous projects. Once a service contract is issued, the contractor must have a detailed program on the exploration activities.


On the other hand, Provincial Board Member Peter Calderon said the Province has nothing against oil exploration as long as it is environmentally compliant and concerns of the fisherfolk are addressed.

Calderon said the National Government must refrain from implementing projects that jeopardizes the livelihood of fishermen.

Meanwhile, Dr. Lemuel Aragones, a mammal scientist from Siliman University, said Tañon Strait between Cebu and Oriental Negros and the Cebu-Bohol Strait between Cebu and Bohol are equally important bodies of water for marine mammals, particularly dolphins and whales.

Aragones said Tañon Strait and Cebu-Bohol Strait are important fishing grounds. (EOB)

For Bisaya stories from Cebu. Click here.(November 16, 2008 issue)Write letter to the editor.Click here.

Group: Food shortage if oil drilling continues

Group: Food shortage if oil drilling continues
Updated November 15, 2008 12:00 AM

CEBU - An environmental group yesterday warned of a possible food shortage if the oil drilling activities in the seas in Central Visayas continue.

Vince Cinches, one of the convenors of the Save Tañon Strait Citizens Movement, said the fish supply and marine resources in Central Visayas have been affected by the continuing oil and gas exploratory activities.

In a press conference, Cinches said that 52 percent of the animal daily protein requirement comes from fishes and these animals will suffer once the oil drillings are not stopped.

And once the marine mammals are affected, he explained humans will also suffer because many people in Cebu depend on fishing for their food and livelihood.

Reports said that more than 400,000 Cebuanos and inhabitants of other Central Visayas provinces engaged in the fishing industry are affected by the oil exploration that is being conducted by NorAsian in the waters of Argao and Sibonga.

“It’s too much, the waters of Central Visayas are surrounded by service contracts for different oil companies to identify, develop and distribute oil resources,” Cinches said.

“The Central Visayas is the epicenter of global marine shore fish diversity and has the richest concentration of marine life in the whole planet,” he added.

With the oil explorations, Cinches pointed out that it is expected that the local marine ecosystem would be adversely affected.

NorAsian Energy Ltd., an Australian oil exploration company with three service contracts in the Philippines, is currently conducting explorations in the waters of Bohol Strait off the coasts of Argao and Sibonga to find out if the amount of fossil fuel in the area is commercially viable.

Cinches claimed the granting of service contracts to the foreign oil companies will not help the country and the local economy because of the tax holidays and other privileges granted to the foreign companies under the outdated Presidential Decree No. 87 of 1972 or the Service Contract Law. — Jasmin R. Uy/WAB (THE FREEMAN)

Save Tañon group wants GMA to stop oil drillingñ-group-wants-gma-stop-oil-drilling

Save Tañon group wants GMA to stop oil drilling

LEADERS of the Save Tañon Strait Citizens Movement (STSCM) celebrated their first anniversary as a group yesterday and urged President Arroyo to stop oil drilling in the waters of the Visayas.

Lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos said that as an early Christmas gift to Arroyo, they will send her a book entitled “Go Easy on the Sea” with confidence that once the President reads it, she will realize that preserving the sea is more important than oil drilling.

“Why would government insist on an oil drilling project when it pollutes the environment and adds to the greenhouse gas, which causes climate change? Let us do our share as member of the global community in reducing carbon emission” Estenzo-Ramos said.

She hopes the government will listen to them, considering that the country is a signatory to different international conventions affirming our mission and help to attain sustainable development.


Estenzo-Ramos said the Philippines is also a member of a group of nations that is committed to support the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty by 50 percent by the year 2015.

“We have only seven years to go but we are contributing to the displacements of fisherfolk. So how can we possibly attain this goal of reducing poverty and promoting ecological sustainability? That is why government officials must listen to the grievances of the people”, Estenzo-Ramos said.

Seismic survey

As this developed, the fisherfolk of Argao and Sibonga towns, who are supported by STSCM, have vowed to fight against oil drilling in the Cebu-Bohol Strait. The seismic survey was recently conducted by Nor-Asian Energy Limited.

Lawyer Benjamin Cabrido said the govern-ment’s oil drilling encroaches on the livelihood of the fishermen. This violates their first Bill of Rights, which is the right to life.
“That cannot be bargained away. They are taking away the livelihood of the fisherfolk in Argao and Sibonga,” he said.

He said that there are two conflicting interests in the Argao-Sibonga project. Whether the life and livelihood of the fisherfolk take precedence over national projects—the so-called independent energy development program of the government—is now a legal issue.

“Enough is enough for protests. It is now high time to elevate this issue to the court, especially the Supreme Court, to resolve whether a government project will prevail over the right to life,” Cabrido said. (EOB)

For Bisaya stories from Cebu. Click here.(November 15, 2008 issue)Write letter to the editor.Click here.

Environmentalists barred

Environmentalists barred
By Carine M. Asutilla
Cebu Daily News
First Posted 09:15:00 11/15/2008

Members of the Save Tañon Strait Citizens’ Movement were disappointed when they were not allowed to go inside the office of the Department of Energy in Central Visayas (DOE-7) yesterday to personally hand the fisherfolk's testimonial letter to Regional Director Antonio Labios.

They were met by Saul Gonzales, DOE officer-in-charge, at the lobby. He told them that Labios was not around and that their office could not accommodate too many people inside including members of the media.

Because of office space constraints, Gonzales said they could only accommodate a representative from the group.

He received and signed the letter for Labios.

Vince Cinches of the Fisherfolk Development Center said his group was dismayed by DOE's refusal.

He said that as a public office, anyone can go inside and transact their business.

The letter was penned by members of the Alyansa sa mga Mangingisda Batok sa hulga sa NorAsian and Panghiusa sa Gagmay’ng Mangingisda sa Sugbo.

The fisherfolk wrote that when a seismic survey was conducted in their area for 10 days in July 2007, they had meager fish catch for about five months.

In August this year, a site location survey was conducted in their area by NorAsian and DOE, which resulted to the loss of their payaos (fish pens).

Benjamin Cabrido, environmental lawyer, said the group had exhausted all efforts to protect Cebu Strait as well as the Tañon Strait outside litigation.

He said that it is high time to bring the matter to the courts.

A notice to sue was issued to NorAsian and DOE and asked them to leave the waters of Sibonga and Argao towns.

Cabrido said that the oil exploration encroaches on the livelihood of fishermen, thus violating their bill of rights, which is the right to life.

Gloria Ramos, another environmental lawyer, said the Philippines also violated some international laws that the country is a signatory of such as the Millennium Development Goals that aims to reduce poverty by 50 percent by 2015.

She said that taking away the livelihood of the fishermen was a threat to food security and can increase the percentage of poverty in no time.

Fishermen assured amid oil exploration

Fishermen assured amid oil exploration
By Bernadette Parco
Cebu Daily News

First Posted 09:55:00 11/13/2008

Fisherfolks in the towns of Argao and Sibonga whose livelihood was affected by the ongoing oil exploration activities in their area were told to resume fishing following a dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in Central Visayas (CHR-7) yesterday.

“I told them to go back to fishing,” Alejandro Alonzo, CHR-7 Regional Director, told after the more than two-hour dialog between the agency and the fisherfolks.

The fisherfolks complained that the pollution caused by the oil exploration activities done by NorAsia Energy Ltd in Argao and Sibonga reduced their fish catch.

They alleged that their fish catch had already been depleted by the encroachment of commercial fishers in their areas.

“There were also military personnel who told us that they were concerned about the presence of leaders of non-government organizations who are communists,” said Anselmo Somuran, vice chairman of the Simala Bantay Dagat Association in Sibonga.

Alonzo asked Regional Director Antonio Labios of the Department of Energy in Central Visayas (DoE-7) to review the list of names of Argao and Sibonga residents who were given financial assistance.

Labios said the DoE-7 made a list and distributed the financial assistance. He said they would review the list anew and give assistance to others affected by the project.

Labios said the oil exploration activity is part of the government's goal to reduce the country's dependency on foreign oil.

He also said their agency screens all companies to determine their compliance with environmental standards.

Maj. Bart Pade of the Judge Advocate General Office, said an officer of the 78th Infantry Battalion of Central Command denied allegations of military harassment on the fisherfolks during their protest.

“I will refer this to the 78th IB. It is possible that there will be an investigation on this (matter),” Pade told .

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dolphins' lawsuit vs. state agencies moves on

Saturday, November 01, 2008
Dolphins' lawsuit vs. state agencies moves on

DOLPHINS and other mammals who oppose attempts to drill for oil in the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape need to spell out their arguments in a formal memo, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered.

In a Sept. 23 letter to all the parties, the SC resolved to give due course to two petitions filed against government agencies and officials, as well as a Japanese company.

Both petitions concerned the exploratory drilling for oil in Tañon Strait, off the coasts of Pinamungajan and Aloguinsan towns.

Dolphins, toothed whales, porpoises and other cetacean species are represented in the suit by lawyers Gloria Estenzo-Ramos and Liza Osorio. The Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center (Fidec) is the petitioner in the other case.

Named respondents were Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Angelo Reyes, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Jose L. Atienza, Department of Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap, DENR 7 Director Leonardo R. Sibbaluca, and the Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. Ltd. (Japex), represented by its Philippine agent, Supply Oilfield Services.

Japex conducted the exploratory drilling from late last year until early this year.

In an earlier interview, Atty. Ramos explained that giving due course to the petition of the mammals meant that they were treated like normal, human petitioners.

The parties are given 30 days from receipt of the resolution to file their memoranda.

Each memorandum, according to the resolution, will contain a “statement of the case;” a summary of the proceedings; the challenged decision, resolution or order of the court; the nature of the judgment and other matters necessary to an understanding of the nature of the controversy.

“No new issues may be raised by a party in (the) memorandum, and the issues raised in pleadings but not included in the memorandum shall be deemed waived or abandoned. Being a summation of the parties’ previous pleadings, the court may consider the memorandum alone in deciding or resolving these petitions,” the resolution also read.


The mammals’ lawyers have said their habitat was destroyed by the oil exploration, while the fishermen said they lost their livelihood.

Lawyer Dante Ramos is representing Fidec, while Benjamin Cabrido represents the mammals.

They are the same lawyers who represent the Bantayan Group of Islands in a suit against DENR, over the allegedly indiscriminate issuance of environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) in the island. They argued that some businesses covered by ECCs may be detrimental to the environment of Bantayan, a protected area as declared by a presidential proclamation. (JGA)


IBP seeks dialogue with LGUs over ‘harassment’ in 2 towns

Monday, November 03, 2008
IBP seeks dialogue with LGUs over ‘harassment’ in 2 towns

THE Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu Chapter wants a dialogue with local government officials regarding the alleged harassment in the southern towns in relation to the exploratory drilling by Australia’s Nor-Asian Energy Ltd.

Sibonga and Argao fishermen have protested against Nor-Asian’s exploration for oil and gas deposits in Bohol Strait, which also includes the municipal waters of Sibonga and Argao.

Fishermen reported that members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police were “harassing” them for their protest actions.

“We are peace-loving citizens in Cebu who are also officers of the court, mandated by our oath to promote the administration of justice and to protect human rights, especially of those who have no voice in governance. We are committed to protect them,” lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos said in a draft letter about the abuses allegedly inflicted on the fishers.

The letter will be signed by officers of the IBP-Cebu City Chapter headed by its president Noel Adlawan. Ramos is one of the group’s directors.

The letter will be sent to Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez, Sibonga Mayor Lionel Bacaltos and Argao Mayor Edsel Galeos.

The letter is also addressed to Department of Energy 7 Director Antonio Labios, Lt. Gen. Pedro Insierto of the AFP Central Command, Commodore Rolando Dizon of the Coast Guard and Commission on Human Rights 7 Director Alejandro Alonzo.

The subject of the letter read: “Harassment of residents in Argao and Sibonga.”

In a protest action last week, Fisherfolks Development Center (Fidec) executive director Vince Cinches claimed that the police and military threatened the protesters with arrest when they were only airing their grievances.

Victor Lapaz, chairman of the Panaghugpong sa Gagmayng Mangingisda sa Sugbo (Pamana-Sugbo), related last week that armed men in civilian clothing confiscated placards and streamers while uniformed policemen from the Cebu Provincial Police Office and soldiers from the 78th Infantry Battalion looked on.

The IBP-Cebu Chapter is alarmed by such reports.

According to the letter, last Oct. 16, military men with long firearms searched members of a band during a fluvial activity that the fishermen organized as a protest.

There were also reports, the IBP said, that the Coast Guard ordered the fishermen off the fishing grounds.

“Recently, men in civilian clothing arrived in vans and started asking people in the community about the whereabouts of leaders of the people’s organizations in the area,” the IBP Cebu Chapter also noted.

IBP also mentioned the government’s constitutional mandate to preserve traditional fishing grounds for the subsistence of small-town fisherfolk.

Argao and Sibonga fishermen, just like those in Toledo, Pinamungajan and Aloguinsan last year, claimed that the drilling will reduce their catch.

The IBP also criticized Nor-Asian’s lack of resolutions from the different local government units to conduct the exploration.

IBP-Cebu noted the “seeming lack of appreciation by the local chief executives of the crucial role they play in environmental and human rights protection and in the enforcement of fisheries laws.”

The lawyers said they want a discussion with all stakeholders to protect the fishers from the loss of livelihood and against further harassment, as they claimed. (JGA)

For Bisaya stories from Cebu. Click here.