2D seismic survey suspension: a hollow victory

July 6, 2007

Only after it had finished conducting a 3D seismic survey for seven days in Bohol seas just some three (3) kilometers off Cabilao Island, Loon was the M/V Pacific Sword ordered to suspend the exploratory 2D survey off Maribojoc Bay and the seas of Panglao. Per its orders, the seismic survey vessel headed off to Manila and then proceeded to Singapore.
Through the work of Bohol’s Gov. Erico Aumentado and First District Congressman Edgar Chatto, NorAsian, the contractor for the Department of Energy was instructed to suspend the 2D seismic survey of the Bohol Strait in its search for oil in Philippine waters.

DOE Secretary Rafael Lotilla met with Aumentado and Chatto in Manila Thursday night, July 5, to discuss the economic and ecological impact caused by non-stop explosive pulses every ten seconds coming from an array of airguns on a 24-hour operation for the entire duration of the survey.

Before his meeting with Lotilla, Chatto attended on Saturday, June 30, a meeting of the technical working group formed by the Bohol provincial government to discuss the issues regarding the seismic survey. The TWG is composed of representatives from the provincial government, Bohol Alliance of Non-Government Organizations (BANGON), PROCESS-Bohol and other NGOs, fisherfolk organizations, government offices and agencies, and the academe.

The seismic survey vessel was on a 24-hour non-stop operation for the seven days that it conducted the survey. The divers of the marine assessment team formed by the technical working group to establish baseline data prior to the conduct of the seismic survey in Bohol seas heard the distinct explosions of the seismic blasts even from as far as 15 kilometers away from the survey ship. The survey had been ongoing in the Cebu side of the Cebu-Bohol Strait since June 18. The divers also felt definite shockwaves that would impact their abdomen and upper torso. They also reported that the deeper they went the stronger the sound and the shockwaves became.

The survey kept the fishers of the affected towns of Loon, Maribojoc, Cortes, Dauis, and Panglao and the city of Tagbilaran away from the seas and their livelihood. They were prohibited from fishing 8.5 kilometers from the vessel.
The survey had already been contested through a petition for injunction praying for a temporary restraining order by local authorities, NGOs, and POs as municipal waters were being violated without so much as due notice and public consultation.
The Secretary of the DOE conferred with NorAsian and the 2D survey was ordered suspended until all the technical working group concerns were addressed, which had been the original condition before the seismic survey was to proceed but which was disregarded by the project proponents.

Now that the survey has been suspended, we are determined to make sure that such an action that poses so great a threat to the seas and marine life of Bohol and disregards the voice of the people and local government jurisdiction will never be repeated.

This is Bohol. This is our province and Boholanos do not give up easily. If anyone dreams of repeating what has just been averted, let them be advised that we can be Sikatuna or Dagohoy. We can be firm friends or staunch enemies.