Tañon Strait ‘still open’ to other oil explorers

CEBU CITY — The reported pullout of an oil exploration firm from Tañon Strait will not mean a victory for environmental advocates.

Department of Energy (DOE)-Visayas Director Antonio Labios on Friday said that Tañon Strait will be opened to other interested oil and gas explorers once Japan Oil Exploration Corp. (Japex) formalizes it withdrawal.

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Labios said Japex must officially inform the DOE-Visayas if they will officially terminate the contract because the foreign company has obligations to fulfill based on the agreement on oil and gas explorations.

“If Japex will stop, the area will be opened for another interested group. But Japex cannot do it immediately because they have to settle first their commitment to the Philippine Government,” Labios said.

The Capitol is also waiting for an official report from the DOE-Visayas on the development.

Capitol consultant on information and revenue generation Rory John Sepulveda said they expect a report from the agency next week since it regularly updates Governor Gwendolyn Garcia on the project.

However, Vince Cinches of the Fisherfolk Development Center (Fidec) said that the decision of Japex to pullout from Tañon Strait is a victory for all groups who are against the “damaging” exploration.

The Save Tañon Strait Citizen’s Movement said they will pursue the twin cases they have filed before the Supreme Court (SC) for the welfare of the dolphins and the fisherfolk.

Cinches said that they are going to make officials from the DOE, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (Bfar) accountable for the damage to the environment.

He said they will soon meet with the fisherfolk from Toledo City and the towns of Pinamungajan and Aloguinsan to assess the damage due to the exploration by Japex.

Environmental scorecards will be distributed to the different municipalities in Cebu. The cards will contain questions on environmental issues and concerns.

“These scorecards will be a great way for us to find out of their local government officials have done their part in taking care of our environment,” saw environmental lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos in a forum Friday at the University of San Jose-Recoletos.

Cinches said the Bfar already announced the availability of the monitoring result of the Multi-Sectoral Monitoring Team, which is composed of government representatives and some private individuals.

“We requested from Bfar for a copy of that report. But for two months already, we received no reply,” Cinches said.

Cinches alleged that Bfar included Dr. Ben Malayang, president of Siliman University, as a member of the team. But this was denied by Malayang.

“The government officials who connived in the destruction of Tañon Strait should answer for their unconstitutional acts,” Cinches said. (SunStarCebu)

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