Oil exploration in marine-life rich Tanon Strait ‘unconstitutional’


Declared as a protected seascape in 1998, the exploration, development and exploitation of petroleum resources of an oil company within the Tañon Strait that lies between Negros and Cebu in the Visayas region was declared by the Supreme Court on Tuesday as unconstitutional.


The Court unanimously decided to nullify the contract signed between the Department of Energy and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. Ltd (Japex) for oil exploration and exploration and drilling in a 2,850 kilometer area offshore of Tañon Strait.


The Strait, which has a total area of 3,108 kilometers, is known as a migration route of whale sharks, and home to dolphins, coral reefs, different species of cetaceans and reef fish.


“ While there is a general law on exploration, Presidential Decree No. 87, which remains in effect, was entered into in 2004 only between the DOE and Japex and was signed only by then Secretary of Energy and not by the President,” the court ruling stated, citing the Constitution requirement wherein the service contract must be submitted to Congress and authorized by a general law signed by the President.


The Court adds that aside from the contract being “unconstitutional”, it also violated the Republic Act 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992, since the Tañon Strait is an environmentally critical area.


The high court emphasized that an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) must be secured after the project undergoes an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to determine the effects of the oil exploration and drilling activities in the Strait.


The petitions were filed by the Resident Marine Mammals of the Protected Seascape Tanon Strait and the Central Visayan Fisherfolk Development Center. They alleged that the activity of the oil company reduced the residents and farmers’ fish catch due to the destruction of artificial reefs in the area.


Among those named respondents were the late Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, Environment Secretary Lito Atienza and Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, among others.


photo credit: oceana phl

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