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Editorial

August 12, 2007

MODERNITY VS. THE ENVIRONMENT

The clash of Modern Living of the 21st Century and Environment Preservation is happening in our lifetime. Just look around you – people in Loon, Tagbilaran City and Albur.

Let’s start with the oil exploration issue. The sneaky Australia-based oil explorer (Otto Energy Ltd) mother company of the even sneakier NorAsian Energy Ltd proudly announced it had discovered potential commercial oil recoverables in the Argao-Cabilao in the amount of 270 million barrels. Fine.

The Department of Energy quickly gave them a deadline to start drilling and end by March 2009. Fine.

But wait a minute. Wasn’t this the same consortium that – after having agreed with the stakeholders of the issue: fisher folks, LGU, environmentalists, tourism defenders that no seismic survey will be done without resolving issues – did one anyway on the sly -with a little help from scheming and public-insensitive officials and judges?

And hey, has any Bohol official looked at the fine print of the LGU sharing agreement in the oil find so that the terse complaint aired by the Palawan governor Joel Reyes over Station DYRD that his province never got its fair share in the deal leading to a pending case in the Supreme Court – will no likewise happen to our beloved Bohol?

One cannot be termed over-critical when past facts and antecedents point to grossly irregular ethical behavior of certain companies, industries and officials. What NorAsian did in the sinister seismic survey and the highway robbery of Palawan are not the imaginings of the fertile minds of paranoid environmental warriors. They are all well documented.

Everyone is well aware that an oil find as it did in Texas many years ago -exploded commerce beyond every Texan’s imagination.But they paid precious little price for it.

What about elsewhere?

Oil explorations and rigs can cause oil spills -that is a grim possibility. Let’s not go too far and see what has happened to Guimaras island -victim of the country’s largest oil spill.

Because of the spill , the Barangay Tando, fishermen who used to catch 30 kilos a day (average) – now Mang Ambo can hardly get two kilos.

The fish has gone.Some folks were compensated P 14,000 which could not even buy a boat and fish net. The BFAR could not even say if the shell in the area is edible.

Tourism had suffered when for months the blue was murky with greyish black ink – though most have settled in coves nearby. Mangroves were destroyed and the seaweed industry was crushed. Even the mango population was threatened because water under the ground was contaminated costing millions of pesos in disinfectants to the government. For a while water was not potable. We know because we have met some of the suppliers of the disinfectants.

It is a worst case scenario, true – but it can happen. We have prided our Bohol to have tourism as our flagship industry – is it endangered now? Who is seriously looking into this? Despite denials, scientific proof had surfaced there were already negative effects of the seismic survey on marine life and biodiversity.

In the same vein, Rep Edgar Chatto (chair of Tourism in the House) should explain in detail and reconcile how the handsomely presented International Cruise Port in Cabilao island (in the same town of Loon) – engineered by the Philippine Ports Authority – will fare with all those oil rig structures and barges crisscrossing the sea path once the oil exploration begins in 2009.

This is serious matter that capsulizes the ongoing struggle between modernity and the environment as this editorial postulates as a title. Public vigilance must continue.

What about the promised Water Treatment of City Mayor Dan Lim to prevent the cascading of waste and impurities to the clear Bohol waters of Tagbilaran Bay and the city sea port? Where is it? Has the city SP prepared a budget for it? This the mayor must give this importance because the Bay serves as a showcase to all visitors who after all give business to the city and the province.

The Water Treatment project may not be as thrilling and visible as a spanking new Agora edifice in downtown CPG but the long-term impact on the environment -and tourism in general – of such project cannot be overstated.

Finally, we must find a closure to the Sanitary Landfill debate over the Albur location.Modern living creates waste every day -whether we like it or not -and we have to dispose them. A city and a prime island tourist destination like Panglao without a regular sanitary landfill is unacceptable.

The issues of just compensation, water protection of Albur sources, and a fair billing system for users should put the issue to rest. We can start being less parochial in our thoughts, perhaps.No town is an island – sufficient unto itself. Shalom. (The Bohol Chronicle, Aug. 12, 2007)

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