Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cebu gov hit over oil, gas exploration pact,_gas_exploration_pact

Cebu gov hit over oil, gas exploration pact
By Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 12:39:00 04/24/2009

Filed Under: Mining and quarrying, Protest, Agreement (general)
MANILA, Philippines—Militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya, National Forces of the Fishers’ Movement of the Philippines) has questioned an agreement between the Cebu local government and an Australian mining firm to explore the Cebu-Bohol Strait for oil and gas.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said on Thursday the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by officials of the Australian offshore mining group NorAsia Limited and Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia last April 15 was “a recipe for tragedy and a memorandum for destruction of Cebu-Bohol Strait.”

He added that the agreement went against the livelihood and interest of Cebuano and Boholano fisherfolk and that Garcia committed “a heinous crime against the environment and against the fisherfolk.

“This is totally revolting and extremely reprehensible. The MOU is a recipe for an across-the-strait destruction of people’s environment and livelihood in Cebu-Bohol Strait. The Governor of Cebu, her bosses in MalacaƱang and the Department of Energy, including NorAsia should be held responsible and accountable for whatever damage and destruction their offshore mining stint would create,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

Pamalakaya said the far-reaching effects of oil and gas explorations even during its exploratory or prospecting stage prior to production and extraction would be detrimental to the marine environment and to the fisherfolk’s livelihood.

The group said many studies showed that offshore mining could cause a significant amount of air pollution. Each offshore oil platform generates approximately 214,000 pounds of air pollutants each year. An average exploration well for natural gascould generate 50 tons of nitrogen oxides, 13 tons of carbon monoxide, six tons of sulfur dioxide and five tons of volatile organic hydrocarbons, according to studies cited by Pamalakaya.

In addition, oil and gas drilling operations produce huge amounts of water waste ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 metric tons of highly toxic water waste materials per drilling. The seismic tests, which are part of the exploration stage, damage the hearing organs of marine species, cause hemorrhage in body tissues, and damage their reproductive organs.

Pamalakaya said seismic blasting could cause behavioral modifications and reduce or eliminate available habitat for breeding, spawning, foraging and migration. Seismic noises can alter fish distribution by tens of kilometers and can elicit physiological stress on neural-immune responses in marine organisms.

“Recent findings also revealed that oil and gas exploration activities could lead to massive production of other toxic waste materials such as cadmium which causes lung cancer; lead which causes gastrointestinal diseases, blood and kidney disorders, mental retardation and affects the nervous system; chromium which causes lung and liver cancers, kidney and other respiratory illness,” the militant group added.

The group also said the offshore mining in Cebu-Bohol Strait and other parts of the Visayan basin would affect the livelihood of not less than 100,000 small fishermen and 500,000 dependents.

Hicap said they have been consulting with lawyers on available legal remedies to nullify the agreement.

The agreement allows the Australian company to explore 7,400 square kilometers of marine waters encompassing the Cebu-Bohol Strait, a narrow sea strait separating the island provinces of Cebu and Bohol, and parts of Leyte in the East Visayan basin.

The group’s leader also scoffed at the P500,000 assistance fund provided by NorAsia for the fisherfolk and residents of Argao and Sibonga, two of the affected municipalities in Cebu, where the exploration has been set to take place.

In 2008, leaders of Pamalakaya wrote Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd requesting the Australian prime minister to persuade its’ offshore mining company—NorAsia Energy Limited to back off from oil and gas exploration project in Cebu-Bohol Strait. But the premier did not act on the matter, the group said.

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