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Oil exploration tests Bohol’s priorities
« on: June 25, 2007, 09:02:05 AM »
SunStar News

An oil and natural gas exploration off Bohol is not allowed under the Bohol Investment Code, which local leaders approved to protect the province’s eco-tourism prospects, a lawyer said.

“I suggest that they (officials) review the provisions of the code. Because as far as I know, the code disallows any investment that involves extraction of resources because we are dependent on our ecotourism,” said lawyer Raul Barbarona of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (Elac).

But Bohol Gov. Erico Aumentado said the prohibition is not broad, and investments banned in certain areas are specifically identified in the code.

“That is not correct (that the exploration is banned under the code) because we have to balance progress and environment. (But) it is true that there are specifications in accordance to what is preferable in each town,” he said.

For example, the governor said, mining and quarrying are not allowed in the towns of Carmen, Sagbayan and Batuan to protect the famous Chocolate Hills.

Through Barbarona, 13 complainants petitioned a Tagbilaran City court for an injunction in the hope that the impending seismic survey in Bohol will not proceed until everything is well explained.

The petition asked that the certificate of non-coverage that the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) issued to NorAsian and the memorandum of agreement on streamlining the environmental impact system process that both parties entered into be declared null and void.

It likewise asked for the prohibition of three-dimension and two-dimension seismic surveys and for EMB 7 Director Alan Arranguez to enforce the environmental impact system law.

10 days

The petition named DOE Secretary Rafael Lotilla, NorAsian Chairman Rufino Bomasang and Arranguez as respondents.

In Cebu, the seismic survey began Monday last week, to be completed in 10 days.

Affected fishermen in the towns of Sibonga and Argao were already paid for their destroyed payaw (fish pens) and income lost during the period.

Barbarona said that although the seismic survey is still in Cebu, its adverse effect on fishing is already being felt in the Cabilao islet of Loon town.

Cabilao is around 14 kilometers from Argao, Cebu.

He said five barangays sit in Cabilao and the fishermen there have complained of a decline in their catch since the Cebu seismic survey began.

“Cabilao is a passageway of hammerhead sharks, but fishermen there claimed a decline in their sightings of the creature,” he said.

Aumentado, however, said he demanded transparency and accountability from DOE before acceding to the project.

What is needed, he said, is more effort at providing information for Bohol fishermen to understand the project’s benefits.

“Naa pay balita sa newspaper namo diri nga nag tsunami kuno mo diha sa Cebu tungod sa seismic survey. Ambot naunsa na ni (A newspaper here in Bohol reported that the seismic survey caused a tsunami there in Cebu. Disinformation has gone out of hand),” he said. (AIV)

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