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Duterte promise: If there’s oil in marsh, Moros will own it

President makes commitment in pitch for BBL at gathering for end of Ramadan

OIL-RICH? Soldiers navigate the vast Liguasan Marsh in search of terrorists. —PHOTO FROM 3RD INFANTRY BATTALION

Any oil or gas found in the 330,000-square-kilometer Liguasan Marsh belonged to Moros, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday.

In a pitch for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the President said one of the sources of anxiety among Moro communities was the supposed untapped resources of Liguasan Marsh.

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“If there are trillions of cubic meters of oil, do not be worried at all,” the President said in a dialogue with Muslim communities during the celebration of Eid al-Fitr in Davao City.

‘I promise you’

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“The government will not claim that, that’s yours,” he said, referring to oil and gas reserves believed to be untapped at Lake Buluan in Liguasan Marsh. The deposits were believed to be 68 billion cubic meters worth at least $1 trillion.

“I promise you, and that’s my commitment, it belongs to the Moro people. That’s yours,” the President said.

But the President said should the area yield that much gas and oil, the Moro people should not “forbid others” from partaking of the bounty.

“My God, all of them will come flocking [to Liguasan],” the President said.

“Christians, Muslims, ‘lumad’ will join the fray to enjoy progress and development,” he added.

He also reminded Moros that they would need to pay taxes to the national government if oil and gas were found in Liguasan.

Oil and progress

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Under the BBL, the area “will remain in your control and possession,” the President said. “But you just have to pay taxes,” he said.

After starting the operations of an oil field found in Alegria town, Cebu province, the President blamed lack of oil for the Philippines’ slow progress.

But the proposed BBL was unclear over control of Liguasan Marsh.

The Senate and House versions of the proposed measure stated that fossil fuel deposits found in areas covered by the new autonomous region proposed by the BBL shall be “comanaged” by the autonomous and national governments.

Congressman’s claim

The two bills stated that there shall be “joint exploration, development and utilization” of resources within the autonomous area.

But income from all other resources, including metals, shall “pertain fully to the Bangsamoro government.”

The House and Senate passed their versions of the BBL earlier this month.

Excitement over resources in Liguasan was generated by the claim made by Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, who had said the area beneath Lake Buluan contained 68 billion cubic feet of gas, citing a government survey.

In his pitch for the BBL, the President said he would try to convince Congress to pass the proposed measure without “cuts.”

“I’m sure the Speaker would agree with me,” the President said at the gathering of at least 650 Moro leaders and government officials.

He said he was consulting with Moro leader Nur Misuari because he wanted to make the new autonomous setup “inclusive.”

More power

Misuari’s Moro National Liberation Front also has a peace agreement with the government.

The BBL, crafted under a peace agreement with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), seeks to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new autonomous government that would have more powers and bigger territory.

The MILF expressed frustration at the slow pace with which Congress was deliberating on the BBL, blaming the delay on “political interests.”

MILF leader Murad Ebrahim said the BBL should be compliant with the peace agreement signed by the MILF and the government under the administration of Benigno Aquino III.

Ebrahim said the BBL faced hurdles like “parochial political interests, ingrained biases, ignorance and fear, and even arrogance from the powers that be.”

He said, however, that the MILF continued to pursue the BBL to bring peace to Mindanao. With reports from DJ Yap, Allan Nawal and Karlos Manlupig

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TAGS: Bangsamoro region, liguasan marsh, oil deposits, Rodrigo Duterte
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