From: Reuters
Published March 14, 2008 07:01 PM

Peru to allow Amazon explorations despite protests

By Jean Luis Arce

LIMA (Reuters) - Peru will forge ahead with plans to let oil and gas companies explore remote rain forests, the president of Peru's state oil company said on Friday, despite calls from environmental and human rights groups to stop.

The government is auctioning dozens of parcels for petroleum prospecting throughout the county, including the Amazon jungle located some 550 miles east of Peru's capital, Lima.

Indigenous people who have shunned contact with the rest of society are thought to live within some of the parcels and rights groups say exploration will hurt jungle tribes.

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"In the face of this -- what can we do?" asked Daniel Saba, president of Peru's state oil company, PetroPeru, about the groups' criticism.

"Simply continue working ... knowing we are not hurting anything," he said.

Saba accused rights organizations of spreading lies that fall between "absolution exaggeration and intentional disinformation."

Some 15 isolated tribes live in Peru, according to the London-based advocacy group Survival International, though documenting the groups is difficult as many tribes are nomadic and have burrowed deeper in the forest after brief encounters with outsiders.

PetroPeru has said it considers the tribes to be safe, as they live in protected reserve areas that are not included in government auctions.

But Indian advocates say the idea of reserves doesn't go far enough because tribes travel in and out of the parks depending on the season. They warn encroaching oil company workers could expose the groups to new and deadly diseases, which have decimated tribes in the past.

(Reporting by Jean Luis Arce; Writing by Dana Ford; Editing by Christian Wiessner)

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