OPEN LETTER TO PETROBRAS IN RESPONSE TO ITS MAY 28, 2004 COMMUNICATION
In the Petrobras May 28, 2004 communication, a series of affirmations are made in relation to the Petrobras Energy Project (previously of Perez Companc) in Block 31, located in the Ecuadorian Amazonia, Yasuni National Park and the Huaorani Indigenous Territory. With respect we would like to contradict and clarify.
1. WITH RESPECT TO THE GOOD RELATIONS WITH THE COMMUNITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE
The presence of Perez Companc in Block 31 has generated numerous social and environmental conflicts. Many denouncements have been made against Perez Companc, which reveal the illegal conduct with which it operated, and how it evaded tributes and taxes (Telégrafo 22 de November, 1999).
Perez Companc made offers and inclusive signed conventions to obtain the work permission from the community, which the corporation later ignored; as is proven by the reclamations made by the Llanchama community in relation to the seismic jobs carried out by the corporation in 1997 and 1998 and the "Act for Mutual Support" from November 2001 (Communal Act March 21, 2003).
In November 1999, demonstrations were organised versus this corporation, lead by the Kichwas y Huaorani Peoples. The argument at that point was "the irreversible deterioration of the forest" (Telégrafo 22 November, 1999).
Perez Companc was accused in 2000 of conducting seismic exploration jobs in the community of Samona Yuturi, outside of Block 31. In addition to entering without prior consent from the community, it left behind unexploded charges. On this occasion, the corporation was accused of provoking division within the community (Communal Act 10 September, 2003).
The Kichwas Communes of San Vicente and Sinchi Chicta confirmed feeling "fed up with the company trying to use them and considering them ignorant, fooling them and whimsical misinforming them". In their denouncements, they demand respect for their rights as Indigenous communes and as Ecuadorians (Source: Letter 6 September, 2003).
The corporation also caused conflicts with the Huaorani People, particularly in Garzacocha. Persons from this community had their canoes retained by the corporation when they tried to resist its intentions to construct a roadway, as they had proven that the animals that they hunted for survival had disappeared when Maxus constructed its roadway. Garzacocha is one of the most removed communities and with very little non-indigenous contact. However, since Maxus created the settlement Huaorani de Dicaro, for the inhabitants to work as short-term workers in the construction of the roadway, this People learned what it means to have a petroleum company in its territory. (Source: Eduardo Pichilingue, ecologist and researcher).
On the other hand, Petrobras’ presence in Ecuador has had severe environmental and social implications. When it operated Block 17, in 1987 as Braspetro, grave abuses occurred versus the Huaorani Tagaeri- an Indigenous People in voluntary isolation. At that time, Braspetro employees brought in dogs and killed Huaoranis. The Capuchin priest, Cardinal Alejandro Labaka decided to contact the Tagaeri to intent negotiation. Accordingly it was confirmed at that time, he believed this was the only manner to save them from extinction by the petroleum company’s incursions. In this attempt and following various flights over the community, he was killed with a spear together with Ines Arango, a nun. (Milagros Aguirre, El Comercio, 22 June, 2003)
Recently, the Samona Yuturi Commune denounced that Petrobras had entered upon their property without obtaining prior consent to construct a helicopter port and path. The corporation presented a request to the community when the work had already been initiated. (Source: Letter from the Samona Yuturi Commune 10 September 2003).
The Kichwas communes of Chiro Isla, Sinchi Chicta, Samona Yuturi and San Vicente, located on the banks of the Napo River in the Aguarico village, are within the Area of Direct Impact from the 3D seismic exploration and the construction of the Petrobras oil pipeline. They denounced that the corporation had provoked numerous environmental damages, that it had mislead them, that it had entered without permission into their homes and that they were not consulted. (Press bulletin form the Social work of the Aguarico parish 29 September, 2003).
All of these denouncements were released to the press. Unfortunately, for environmental and human rights organisations, it is very difficult to do follow-through on these complaints because the same corporation impedes entrance into these areas, with the argument that they must "protect entrance into the zone".
Petrobras directors, to have good relations does not signify handing out money to individuals because this conduct provokes division and cultural distortions; nor does it mean pressuring them to change their opinion. Nor does one have for good relations making community investments alien to Indigenous Peoples’ culture - as demonstrated by the creation of population centres next to oil fields - this is a way of causing displacement. Nor does it include winning the confidence of some to place them at ends with those who oppose you, as this attitude creates divisions within the communities.
To have good relations is to respect the Peoples’ rights, respect their territory and to respect national legislation.
Petrobras and Perez Companc before it, have been accomplices to great problems for the Peoples Huaorani and the Kichwa, problems that have been tried to be hidden and are based upon money, gifts, pressures, tricks and offers.
The circulation of money has caused prostitution to become a social problem. A series of cultural changes have been introduced, especially for the Huaorani People in respect to their nutrition, housing, health and education, where far from offering them prosperity, it is finishing off this People and its territories - it has caused a self-sufficient and free People to become dependent upon favour and gifts from corporations.
The Huaorani People suffer an accelerated extermination due to the petroleum companies’ activity. Numerous diseases have been introduced, including hepatitis B & D, venereal diseases and others. In 1999, blood analyses were conducted in the US, Peru and Ecuador, which prove this reality. The report reveals that the Huaorani were infected while they lived or worked at the petroleum fields. (El Comercio 2 March, 1999)
Among Perez Companc’s antecedents, is that it was a partner with OCP. This oil pipeline’s construction supposed innumerable human rights violations, environmental problems, oil spills, and land expropriations. (Alerta Verde No.126 "Violaciones a los derechos Humanos en la construcción del OCP - Green Alert, No. 126 "Human rights Violations in the OCP construction.)
Finally Walsh, the consultant company that carried out the EIS is the same company that did the environmental studies for the oil operations in Sarayacu, and presented the results without ever even having visited the communities, as the Communes would not grant permission to enter.
2. LEGISLATIVE COMPLIANCE
The Petrobras corporation has violated collective rights recognised by the Ecuadorian Constitution. It has violated the ILO’s Convention 169, to which Ecuador is signatory, which recognises Peoples’ rights to their territory and their forms of living.
The Ecuadorian Constitution recognises collective rights and sets forth their property rights as indispensable, inalienable, non-attachable and indivisible (Constitution Art. 84.2).
Furthermore it recognises Indigenous Peoples’ right to participate in the use, usufruct, administration and conservation of renewable natural resources found in their territories. The spirit of collective rights is to guarantee the rights of future generations and the conjunction of communities. This implies that, to force or induce the decision of communities to submit their rights that will affect the integrity of the territory violates the rights of future generations in addition to those of the other communities that share the territories.
In 1996, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a report in which it emphasised the grave impact upon Indigenous Peoples’ human rights, as a result of petroleum corporations’ activity, and by Ecuador’s own company. It makes recommendations that have not been assumed. To ignore these facts implies a level of complicity.
The consultation system that is described in the EIS imposed a western methodology: a partial consultation, it ignored the traditional authorities, failing to recognise their own system of representation. The previous consultation was a "fiasco, as the communities did not know what it was about". (Father Jose Miguel Goldaras).
The presence of Petrobras in protected areas violates the national regulations with respect to protected areas, validating itself with a legal contradiction through the Law of Hydrocarbons, which permits this type of activity. Nevertheless, the Constitution, which is the superior law of reference, established that in protected areas it must be guaranteed the conservation of the biodiversity (Art. 86.3). The petroleum companies’ activities could never offer this guarantee.
The Yasuni National Park is patrimony of all Ecuadorians. Even when Petrobras argues that it is working with the GAT, the advisor agency for the Yasuni National Park- in which 2 research stations from private universities, WCS (an international NGO), the National Environmental Fund, the Ministry of the Environment and the FEPP participate, this entity does not represent the Ecuadorian society and cannot make decisions in its name.
3. MONITORING PLAN
In the referred to letter, the guarantee of the existence of a monitoring plan is presented. However, it is important to point out that one cannot conduct monitoring when the Management Plan is very general and has a very high level of ambiguity.
What remains clear is that with its monitoring plan, the corporation plans to bury at the site all mud and refuse resulting from perforation; to discharge into the environment the operational flows, the black and grey waters; to incinerate garbage and to burn gas- which reminds us of the most antiquated and contaminating practices that exist, as were those of Texaco in the northern region of the Ecuadorian Amazonia, which is currently facing a legal battle for environmental damages.
Social monitoring will be conducted through a series of inapplicable surveys. For example, it will analyse schooling and the agriculture frontier, when these Peoples are hunters and gathers. The criteria suggest a direct intervention upon the communities, including the proposal for community zonification.
None of this guarantees the Park’s conservation.
It is difficult to have confidence in a monitoring proposal that is based upon a study that ignores the impacts, when some of them clearly negative and others it values as positive. One example of this is the social impacts that the project will have upon the Huaorani and Kichwa Peoples. The study states that they will benefit from the indemnifications for damages suffered and because they will also be able to access unqualified jobs. (EIA, Petrobras.)
In a similar manner, you affirm that the dossel bridges are a magnificent alternative. However, they have not been properly evaluated, and the Yasuni National Park cannot be an experimentation centre. It is easy to imagine that because of the border effect, in practice the impact within the zone will be improved.
Petrobras’ interest in scientific investigation is poor, as can be affirmed by its affirmations at the GAT meetings, when the corporation "refutes the seriousness of the scientific data" by the scientist Antonio Difior, who has demonstrated that the petroleum company’s activity in the Yasuni has placed in danger of extinction the chorongos monkeys (Workshop memory- GAT, 27 and 28 November, 2003).
4. INTEREST OF THE INTERNATIONAL FINANCE CORPORATION (IFC)
In the letter it is affirmed that the IFC, an entity that belongs the World Bank Group, is interested in the project. Let us remind you that according to World Bank regulations, these types of projects are classified as Category "A" and that one of the requirements that is made is that they insist upon sector and regional studies.
Our proposal is precisely that an independent social and environmental audit be carried out to identify the problems on the sector and regional levels. It is necessary to know what has occurred with the petroleum companies’ activities within the Yasuni National Park, and furthermore to know what is the impact that these types of activities have had upon Indigenous Peoples. What has occurred up to the moment cannot be ignored.
Finally, we want to inform the international community that the entity that should authorise work within a National Park is the Ministry of the Environment, and this entity has not given the required license, as the Ministry of the Environment confirmed in a meeting on June 7, 2004.
Fabricio Guamán - Elizabeth Bravo (YASUNI FOR EVER CAMPAIGN)
Alexandra Almeida ACCIÓN ECOLOGICA
Esperanza Martínez OILWATCH