Saturday, August 8, 2009

UN takes cognizance over oil explorations in Visayas seas

UN takes cognizance over oil explorations in Visayas seas
(The Freeman) Updated August 08, 2009 12:00 AM

CEBU, Philippines - The Central Visayas Fisherfolk Development Center Inc. warned local government units and other authorities supporting off-shore mining operation that the international community is now aware of the plight of fisher folk affected by the explorations attempts.

Vince Cinches, executive director of Fidec, said that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has responded to the online petition posted last year on the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty website.

The petition letter on “hunger and plunder in the seas of central Philippines” was addressed to officials of the government, including the president, as well as the international organization for the protection of the environment. It gained thousands of signatories from supporters around the world.

The response from the UN states that “the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right food, Mr. Oliver De Schutter, has received information on the oil and gas exploration projects in the Tañon Strait region in the Philippines. As he examines this information, we would be most grateful if you could provide us with some clarifications.”

Ciches said the UN and Fidec are presently coordinating with each other and sharing information on the case. Information is being held confidential until the UN makes it move on the issue.

PCFS and Fidec are seeking explanation from the concerned parties over the findings of a recent International Fact-Finding Mission by the Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific on the effects of off-shore oil and gas exploration activities in the protected seascape of Tañon Strait and Cebu-Bohol Strait in Central Philippines.

The authors of the petition said Tañon Strait is one of the world’s most unique and important centers for marine biodiversity, a breeding ground for 14 species of cetaceans. Cebu-Bohol Strait, meanwhile, hosts nearby the Danajon Double Barrier Reefs Bank, one of only six double barrier reefs in the world.

“However, due to service contracts awarded by the Philippine government to the Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. Ltd. (Japex) and the Australia-based NorAsia Energy Ltd., environmentally-destructive seismic surveys and drilling operations have been conducted in the area even without prior consultation with local communities and government officials,” the petition reads.

Fish catch reportedly declined by 70 to 80 percent, causing hunger and displacement of thousands of small fisher folk in Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental, and Negros Occidental.

“They have been banned from fishing while exploration activities were ongoing and thus denied of their constitutional rights over municipal waters and their basic right to food and livelihood. A scientific study also indicates that these activities have disturbed the natural habitat of dolphins and whales,” the letter stated further. — Jessica Ann R. Pareja/JMO (THE FREEMAN)

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