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Letter to the Government: On the Recent Oil Discovery in Aloguinsan, Cebu

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Days ago, I posted on my Facebook that I was done writing a letter principally addressed to the Cebu Provincial Government. It was about my concern on the oil exploration/discovery in Aloguinsan, a municipality in Cebu south. Last Sunday, Atty. Gloria “Golly” Estenzo-Ramos asked my permission for her to publish my letter on her Sunday column in Cebu Daily News; I answered affirmatively.

Taken from Atty. Golly’s Facebook account.

As what Atty. Golly told me, Part II of her column, which, I believe, will contain the continuation of my letter, will be published next Sunday. But for those who do not have access to CDN newspaper, allow me to share the full text of my letter:

January 17, 2014
Hon. Gov. Hilario Davide, III

Hon. Vice-Gov. Agnes Magpale

Hon. Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Cebu:

Hon. Raul Alcoseba
Hon. Julian Daan
Hon. Christopher Baricuatro
Hon. Peter John Calderon
Hon. Alex Binghay
Hon. Grizelda Sanchez Zaballero
Hon. Joven Mondigo, Jr.
Hon. Sun Shimura
Hon. Miguel Antonio Magpale
Hon. Jude Thaddeus Sybico
Hon. Arleigh Sitoy
Hon. Thadeo Ouano
Hon. Celestino Martinez III
Hon. Carmen Remedios Mecca

Provincial Capitol, Cebu City, Cebu

Hon. Mayor Cynthia Moreno
Hon. Vice-Mayor Augustus Caesar Moreno
Poblacion, Aloguinsan, Cebu City, Cebu

 

Dear Sirs and Mesdames:

Warm nationalist greetings!

As a concerned resident of Cebu, I would like to express my deepest concern about the oil exploration and discovery in Aloguinsan by Australian firm Gas2Grid Ltd. which I have read in the newspapers, lately.

Oil, a fossil fuel, is one of the major contributors to climate change. The continued incessant burning of oil and other fossil fuels has dumped billions of tons of carbon into our atmosphere. Four years ago, when I sent a letter to the Cebu Provincial Government to stop the operations of coal-fired power plants in Toledo and Naga, the global concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was still at 390ppm (parts per million). 350ppm is the upper safety limit. Now, it has reached 400ppm. What does it mean?

To quote Dr. Annmarie Eldering of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)[1]:

Reaching 400ppm is a stark reminder that the world is still not on a track to limit CO2 emissions and therefore climate impacts. We’re still on the ‘business-as-usual’ path, and adding more and more CO2, which will impact the generations ahead of us. Passing this mark should motivate us to advocate for focused efforts to reduce emissions across the globe.

We know that higher concentration of carbon in the atmosphere results to global warming, which also warms our oceans. High temperature in our oceans fuels storms; hence, stronger storms or hurricanes such as Super Typhoon Yolanda and more to come, as scientifically predicted.[2] Also, global warming, that contributes to rapid climate change, has now been linked to the hazardous polar vortex happening right now in North America.

As scientists emphasize, there is a reason why fossil fuels are underneath the Earth’s crust. In digging fossil fuels to burn it for energy supply, we are bringing carbon from underneath to our atmosphere and if we do not stop doing so, with the CO2 concentration increasing from time to time, it will be hotter on Earth as on Venus.

It may be true that the oil drilling (in the commercial stage of the project), should it push through, may bring benefits to the people of Aloguinsan, to Cebu and to the country. But, these benefits are merely transient yet its adverse effects will last long. When the oil runs out, since oil is merely a non-renewable energy resource, Gas2Grid will no longer have business in Aloguinsan. Consequently, it will lead to a massive lay-off of workers therein. It will also leave long-term adverse effect to the aquatic ecosystem near the drilling area, which will be disturbed while drilling is going on. The effect will be worse if oil spill will happen due to negligence or lack of high-quality equipment such as what happened recently in Manila Bay[3]. As a result, it will gravely affect the livelihood of the fisherfolks living near the shore for a very long period of time since it takes time for the environment to regenerate itself.

Hence, as oil is not a sustainable source of energy, it is not, as well, a sustainable source of livelihood and development. Negative effects will outweigh the transient positive effects over the long term.

It must be noted, also, that Aloguinsan is part of the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS). “The TSPS, which lies between the islands of Negros and Cebu, is among the country’s major fishing grounds where about 26,000 fishermen operate. It is also an important migration corridor for whales, dolphins and other marine mammals…”[4]

In relation to that, there are still two cases pending in the Supreme Court on the offshore drilling as to its impacts to the environment and to the affected communities. These cases were filed in response to the offshore oil exploration in the TSPS by a Japanese firm seven or eight years ago. I believe that while these cases are still pending, the government should not entertain or allow any oil exploration in the TSPS.

On the other hand, I would like to request that a public consultation be held on the matter at hand, not just inviting the people of Aloguinsan but all constituents of the Cebu Provincial Government since it will also affect the entire Cebu province. Our laws mandate all local government units (LGUs) to involve their constituents in making policies and decisions that will affect the latter.

Sirs and mesdames, I speak not just in behalf of my generation but also of the generations to come. I would like to remind you that no other than the Constitution guarantees the inherent right of every citizen to a “healthful and balanced ecology”[5] – a right to which even the unborn citizens are entitled. Hence, in the landmark case of Oposa v. Factoran,[6] the Supreme Court stressed out that this right imposes our correlative duty to refrain from impairing the environment, simply termed as inter-generational responsibility and justice. Moreover, the Local Government Code[7] mandates all LGUs to “enhance” the said right. Such duty involves educating the constituents on participatory governance, environmental protection and sustainable development, among others, instead of encouraging them to allow, tolerate or support activities that are detrimental to the environment and to their livelihood for the pursuit of short-term benefits.

There are still so many things to do in protecting and preserving the environment for our survival and for the survival of our children and our children’s children. With that, Philippine Climate Change Commissioner Naderev Saño, in his speech during the UN Climate Talks in Warsaw, Poland right after Yolanda struck our country last year, reminded everyone of us to stop procrastinating in addressing climate change.[8]

The recent Yolanda tragedy, which cost the lives of more than 6,000 fellow Filipinos, is a result of either our procrastination on climate action or our inability to look at the long-term consequences of our decisions and actions or both. When will we ever learn? When will we ever begin to act in addressing climate change? When will we ever start in changing our ways and policies towards sustainable development?

 

With high respect,

 

(Sgd.) KRISTIAN JACOB ABAD LORA
Student, University of Cebu – College of Law
Co-convener, Task Force Batok Mina
kjalora92@yahoo.com

cc: Office of the President of the Philippines
Office of the Vice-Chairperson, Philippine Climate Change Commission
Office of the Secretary, Department of Energy
Office of the Secretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Office of the Secretary, Department of Interior and Local Government
Office of the Chairperson, Commission on Higher Education


[1] NASA scientists react to 400 ppm carbon milestone, Global Climate Change, NASA.gov (online), n. d., http://climate.nasa.gov/400ppmquotes/

[2] Emanuel, Kerry A., Downscaling CMIP5 climate models shows increased tropical cyclone activity over the 21st century, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), July 8, 2013, http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/07/05/1301293110.abstract

[3] Quismorio, Ellson, Solon seeks inquiry on Sulu Sea oil drilling, Manila Bulletin (online), October 28, 2013, http://www.mb.com.ph/solon-seeks-inquiry-on-sulu-sea-oil-drilling/

[4] Villanueva , Rhodina J., Biodiversity in Tañon Strait to be protected, The Philippine Star (online), July 29, 2013, http://www.philstar.com/good-news/2013/07/29/1024041/biodiversity-tanon-strait-be-protected

[5] Const., Art. II, Sec. 16.

[6] G.R. No. 101083, July 30, 1993.

[7] Sec. 16, RA 7160, The Local Government Code.

[8] Saño, Naderev, Typhoon Haiyan: we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action, The Guardian (online), November 11, 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/11/typhoon-haiyan-philippines-climate-change

Meanwhile, Atty. Golly is a co-founder of Phil. Earth Justice Center (PEJC). PEJC, together with Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) and Central Visayas-Farmers Development Center (FARDEC) also sent a letter to the Cebu Provincial Government.

Sending letters is our first step. We’ll see what happens next.

PS: Since we’re talking of climate change and energy resources here, I would like also to invite everyone to an upcoming national climate convergence entitled Sulong: Power Shift Pilipinas to be held in Cebu City on March 28-31, 2014. For more info, visit the page: http://www.facebook.com/PowerShiftPHL

We are gathering more than 200 passionate and committed youth leaders and activists from across the country to push the climate movement in the Philippines forward. If you believe this generation can make a difference, join us! Apply now: http://world.350.org/philippines/sulong-power-shift-pilipinas/

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Author: pchan_august

Juris Doctor (Law) Student. Iskolar ng Bayan. Activist. Environmentalist. Frustrated Singer, Poet and Writer. Computer Enthusiast. Servant of the Masses. God's Servant.

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