President Marcos bullish on Bangsamoro region’s energy prospects

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With scarce dry land on which to grow vegetables, women in Barangay Balong, Northern Kabuntalan, Maguindanao have developed floating gardens in the middle of the Liguasan Marsh. MindaNews file photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 July) – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appeared bullish on the potentials of the energy sector in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) during his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

Marcos noted his administration is pushing for more gas explorations in other parts of the country,  on top of the 15-year renewal of the Malampaya deepwater gas-to-power project in Mimaropa (Region IV-B) in Luzon.

“The national government has also partnered with the BARMM in regard to energy exploration and development, and also its utilization within its territorial jurisdiction,” he said.

“We therefore expect to see renewed investor interest in its promising sites,” he added.

The Bangsamoro region forms part of the 288,000-hectare Liguasan Marsh, which is reportedly rich in natural oil and gas deposits. Liguasan Marsh straddles the provinces of Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte in the BARMM and North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat in Soccsksargen. It is the largest wetland in the Philippines.

Last July 6, the National and Bangsamoro governments signed the Intergovernmental Energy Board (IEB) Circular on the Joint Award of Petroleum Service Contracts (PSCs) and Coal Operating Contracts (COCs) in the Bangsamoro region, marking another major milestone in the Bangsamoro peace process.

The IEB Circular operationalizes the provision in Section 10, Article XIII of Republic Act No. 11054 or the Organic Law for the BARMM to jointly grant rights, privileges and concessions for the exploration, development and utilization of uranium and fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas and coal within the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro.

The circular aims to boost economic development and draw foreign capital into the region.

The framework also outlines the requirements, procedures and standards for companies seeking to apply for and operate PSCs and COCs, and ensure that the exploration and development activities will adhere to stringent rules and regulations and best practices.

In his speech during the signing ceremony then, Marcos said the country “would not be as dependent on external fuel sources, as the IEB Circular will help unleash BARMM’s energy potential and attract vital investments to the area.”

“By harnessing the enormous energy potential within BARMM, we will reduce our reliance on external sources, mitigate the detrimental impacts of price fluctuations and build a solid foundation for our country’s energy security,” the President said.

“Let us, therefore, wholeheartedly embark on this journey with determination and goodwill. We must recognize that through our unity and our commitment — we wield the ability and the power to shape our nation’s destiny,” he added.

Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said the signing of the IEB Circular shows the “unwavering commitment of the Philippine government and the BARMM to work together to sustain the dividends of the peace process.”

“This endeavor will indeed mark a new age of development for the Bangsamoro people at a time when we are sailing across the transition period,” Ebrahim said.

“The signing of the important document on the energy sector that establishes the policies and guidelines for the joint exercise of the Bangsamoro Government and the National Government is another milestone, not only advancing energy security in the Bangsamoro but also having a positive effect on our growing economy,” he added.

Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla noted that the signing of the IEB Circular “is another major leap for the Bangsamoro region.”

“This is an important step towards progress in Mindanao and possibly the establishment of another energy resource center in the Philippines,” he said.

The Inter-governmental Relations Body (IGRB) is co-chaired by Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman on the part of the National Government and Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal on the part of the Bangsamoro Government.

The IGRB is tasked to strengthen the relations between the National and BARMM governments, resolve pressing issues brought before it, and facilitate the creation of other intergovernmental relations bodies.

The IEB is one of the bodies under the IGRB.

Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr. said the signing of the IEB Circular “is among the dividends of peace that is expected to help position the BARMM not only as a leading energy supplier, but also as a premier tourism, trade and investment hub.”

“We have always known that the BARMM has a vast potential to become one of the leading sources of energy not only in Mindanao but in the country. The National and Bangsamoro governments, through the IEB, must work closely together to unlock this tremendous potential,” Galvez said. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

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