Writ of amparo vs oil drilling in Tañon Strait mulled


Leaders of fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Pamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) yesterday said they are contemplating the filing of a writ of amparo against Japanese firm Japan Exploration Corp. (Japex) for threatening the basis of the fisherfolk’s existence in Cebu and Negros by preventing fishermen from catching fish and destroying, in the process the livelihood of fisherfolk communities in both provinces.

Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap said the failure of the Office of the Ombudsman to act on their graft complaint against Japex and officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Energy (DoE), which they filed on Feb.14, 2006 is compelling them to use the writ of amparo as a legal remedy to stop the life threatening oil drilling activities in Tañon Strait.

“The Tañon fishers’ rights to life, liberty and security are threatened by this corporate monopoly in the oil and gas exploration industry. Several environmental laws were violated and acts of omission were committed to pave the way for this ambitious program. We believe the writ of amparo can be made available to us given this kind situation,” he said.

For his part, Salvador France, Pamalakaya national vice-chairman for Luzon said the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution was grossly violated by the operations of Japex, adding small fisherfolk in Tañon Strait have been allegedly prevented from fishing and threatened with arrest and charges by Japex and the government, if they go fishing near the exploration site, which he said is a clear violation of the fisherfolk’s basic right to live.

“We are discussing this proposal with our legal counsels. If it is okay, we will file a writ of amparo at the Supreme Court against Japex and officials of DoE and DENR by January next year,” Hicap added.

Pamalakaya said the Philippine Coast Guard has been preventing the fisherfolk from reaching the fishing area near the exploration site.

Pamalakaya said what Japex had promised to small fishermen was a sack of rice for every fishing family in Aloguinsan and Pinamungajan, which the group described as consuelo de bobo.

The ambitious multi-million dollar oil exploration covered by Service Contract 46 which covers 2,850 square kilometers offshore of Tañon Strait, will affect 13 barangays of Pinamungajan and Aloguinsan in Cebu, 14 towns and cities in Negros Oriental and four towns in Negros Occidental.

In May 2005, Japex held a 751-kilometer multi-channel sub-bottom profiling survey using the M/S Veritas Searcher and two chase boats which carried a 3.5 kilometer cable. The survey, which held on a 24-hour basis, was meant to identify the potential of Tañon Strait to yield 1 billion barrels of oil and out of this potential reserve, 100 million barrels of oil can be recovered.

Earlier, Pamalakaya-Negros chapter conducted a fact-finding mission.

The Negros-based team disclosed the following findings:

•Reduction of fish catch from an average of 10-15 kilos to 2-3 kilos per fishing operation.

•A local fish called “baga”(bucao-bucao) almost vanished in the fishing grounds off the waters of Guihulgan City.

•Before Japex’seismic survey, fishefolk could produce 15-20 kilos but thereafter, they could only catch an average of 1-2 kilos.

•Fish kills occurred in San Carlos City during the seismic survey of the R/V Veritas Searcher in May 2005. Charlie V. Manalo

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