MILF to GPH: suspend oil/gas explo of foreign firms in Bangsamoro areas

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/30 July) — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)’s Central Committee today urged government to “temporarily suspend the operations of foreign companies set to conduct off-shore and on-shore oil and gas explorations in areas/territories covered by the Bangsamoro Ancestral Domain” and asked all private firms “not to allow themselves to be accomplices in further depriving the Bangsamoro of their ancestral domain.”

In an “official statement” dated July 30 and signed by Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, the MILF Central Committee also urged government to “forego with the privatization or sale of Agus and Pulangui Hydro Power Complex,’ noting that if this pushes through, it would “complicate the ongoing peace negotiation on the Ancestral Domain issue.”

It said the sale would “preempt talks on the issues of ancestral domain and patrimony and land ownership.”

“We have been minoritized in our own homeland of Mindanao due to massive landgrabbing and resettlement programs. And now, the little resources that is remaining to us, some of those win the private sector and their partners in government still greedily covet,” the statement read.

The statement was issued three days before the government and MILF peace panels are scheduled to meet in Kuala Lumpur. The panels are supposed to return to the negotiating table on August 2 to 4.

The MILF’s opposition, it welcomes economic development but one that uplifts the Bangsamoro. It said it cannot agree “that such economic development should unilaterally be determined by the Philippine government contrary to and in violation of the letter and spirit of the GPH-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of June 2011 nor should such economic development come before the negotiated political settlement of the Bangsamoro Question shall have been concluded at the negotiating table to the satisfaction of all Parties to the conflict.”

The 2001 Agreement on Peace provides that the MILF “shall determine, lead and manage rehabilitation and development projects in conflict affected areas, except when public funds are involved, in which case Government procedures and rules will be observed.”

Following this agreement, a Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) was set up.

The MILF Central Committee’s statement reiterated that the natural resources of the Bangsamoro belong to the Bangsamoro people.

“Resources” is one of the four strands in the ancestral domain issue which is central to the GPH-MILF negotiations.

For as long as the issue remains unresolved at the negotiating table, MILF Central Committee said attempts to exploit and utilize the resources by foreign firms “in partnership with or with the express permission of the GPH would result in depriving the Bangsamoro people of their collective proprietary right over said resources.”

It added this would also “preempt the intent of the Parties to the negotiation to frame a comprehensive compact formula that would allow the Bangsamoro people to exercise governance over of self-sustaining natural resource-based territorial homeland in their remaining Ancestral Domain.” (MindaNews)

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