SOCO’s Statement on the European Parliament’s Joint Resolution on the DRC, and the Belgian Government’s Resolution to Protect Virunga National Park
SOCO is aware that on December 12th the European Parliament presented a joint resolution on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which was adopted as a motion by the European Parliament on December 13th, 2012.
In addition, SOCO is aware that a motion was passed by the Belgian Federal Government on 14thDecember, 2012 calling for a resolution for the protection of Virunga National Park located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO.
The motion for a resolution put forward by the Belgian House of Representatives has made references to SOCO’s activities in the DRC. The motion also refers to suggestions that the Company has been linked to violence and possible bribery in the region, as well as calling for sanctions against oil companies that operate in the area.
SOCO is fully committed to conducting its business in an honest and ethical manner and it does not accept the allegations about the Company that have been inferred by the motion. The Company does not condone, partake in or tolerate corrupt or illegal activity whatsoever. Corrupt business practices are not acceptable to the Company as reasonable standards of conduct. SOCO has a Code of Business Conduct and Ethics to which all its personnel adhere; any claims of breaches of this Code will be investigated.
Furthermore, SOCO currently holds a contractual commitment with the DRC to assess the hydrocarbon potential of Block V. The DRC has determined that our activities are legal according to their own legislation. If the DRC government decides that our involvement in Block V is no longer legal then we will, of course, discontinue all activities. The first, and only planned activity at this stage, is an aerial survey and no drilling has been planned, or is even warranted.
The Ministry of the Environment of the DRC has written to the Permanent Secretary of the National Commission for UNESCO, stating that:
‘The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has embarked upon explorations and assessments in order to better understand its potential in terms of natural resources. Its aim is to combine sound economic management with the sustainable management of natural resources, and to transform the aforementioned potential into actual resources, in the long‐term best interests of the people.’ (4 August, 2012 (Unofficial English translation))
SOCO is uncertain of what the Virunga National Park landscape looked like when it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1979. However, we are aware of what the area looks like today, scarred by decades of deforestation, poaching and violence against its inhabitants.
Despite the efforts and financial investments of some organizations in the last two decades, very little positive change has taken place in the Virunga National Park during this period. To ignore this fact purely because this area has a World Heritage designation is disingenuous. We believe it may be time to consider a different approach, and that our involvement in the region, if approved by the Government of the DRC, can be positive.
SOCO believes that our presence in and near the Virunga National Park can support the ongoing conservation efforts. A responsibly managed project can bring a measure of stability to a region even in the short term. Moreover, responsibly managed projects that achieve operational success in the longer term can potentially have a transformational impact on the economic and social wellbeing of the host country. Development and investment that contributes to the DRC’s ability to produce and supply its own natural resources – in addition to stimulating the local and regional economies, creating jobs, up-skilling, whilst actively involving local communities in the development effort - can help alleviate the pervasive poverty that has for decades been the stimulus for much of the region’s instability and conservation’s primary threat.
SOCO International plc
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Block V is an area of 7,500 sq km delineated by the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the purposes of hydrocarbon exploration. The Block is located in the southern Albertine Graben in Eastern DRC adjacent to the border with Uganda where there have been recent oil discoveries in the same geological basin. Block V includes a section of the Virunga National Park, which comprises Lake Edward on the DRC side and an area of lowland savannah south of Lake Edward.