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04 December 2017

Subic fishers dispute ‘alarmist’ yarn on LNG operations

Local fishermen have disputed claims by leaders of some activist groups in Central Luzon that the ship-to-ship transfer (STS) operations of liquefied natural gas (LNG) on Subic Bay endanger fisher folk in the area and that locals were not consulted about the project before its approval by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

Resty del Rosario and Laureano Artagame, both officials of local Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Councils (FARMC), dismissed the claims and pointed out that the negative reports came from personalities who do not represent the legitimate concerns of fishermen from Subic Bay.



The news item came out in the alternative news website Kodao and quoted Pamalakaya Central Luzon coordinator Alberto Roldan as saying that STS operations for LNG in Subic “endanger fisher folk as well as civilian establishments and communities in Olongapo City.” Pamalakaya stands for the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya, which is the national federation of fishermen’s organizations.

The report also quoted Marcelito Clemente, coordinator of the Central Luzon Alliance for a Sovereign Philippines (CLASP), as saying that the project was “simply another case of profit above public safety for SBMA.” CLASP, a left-leaning group, had called for the withdrawal of U.S. military bases in the country and had opposed the holding of Balikatan military exercises with American armed forces.

The local fisher folk leaders, however, said the reports do not mirror the sentiments of local fishermen.

“We support the SBMA on this project 100 percent,” said Del Rosario, who chairs the Subic Bay Integrated Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council, which whose members include fisher folk in Olongapo City, Subic and San Antonio, Zambales and Morong, Bataan.

“Is the LNG operation safe? We believe so, because the SBMA wouldn’t place that project there without examining and addressing the risks involved,” Del Rosario added.



He noted that the critics of the STS project are far too removed from the area, and hence are unaware of the local situation.

“How would they know what happens down here? How can they be the voice of the locals? They are just being alarmists,” an exasperated Del Rosario said.

“As local leaders representing the mostly poor and marginalized fishermen in the locality, we will not be a party to anything that will harm our people. We will not agree to it,” Del Rosario added.

Artagame, meanwhile, emphasized that the SBMA has not been remiss in consulting local fishermen about the LNG project during its inception in 2016. He recalled that the Jovo Group, China’s leading clean energy service provider which operates the project, conducted a consultation in October last year before making the first ship-to-ship transfer in April this year.

“We were invited during the consultation and it was amply shown to us that the LNG is clean and safe,” Artagame said. “Of course, we gave our suggestions regarding the operation, and the SBMA officials assured us that they will stop the operation if ever there will be any harmful effect. By the grace of God, no such effect had ever come our way since then,” he added.

Aside from the perceived safety of STS operations here, Del Rosario also pointed out that the area where the transfer is being handled is no longer a part of the community fishing grounds ever since the US Navy had used Subic Bay as a military base.

“We are fishing elsewhere, a little farther from the location of the LNG and even father out of the bay, and the SBMA is even helping us restore coral reefs that have been damaged over the years by illegal fishing,” Artagame said.

Ever since the LNG project was approved, only two transfers have been made: the first was made on April 27 and the second on November 19. (HEE/MPD-SBMA)

PHOTOS:

[1 ]Laureano Artagame, Provincial Chairman of FARMC Zambales and Vice-Chairman of FARMC of the Municipality of Subic.

[2] 3The first LNG ship-to-ship transfer operations on Subic Bay made last April.

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