MILF nixes hydropower plants’ privatization, gas exploration

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/31 July) — The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has expressed opposition to the privatization of the Agus and Pulangui hydropower plants as it also urged the government to suspend an off-shore gas exploration in the island.

Ghazali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, said the front’s central committee arrived at such decision on Friday in a meeting at Camp Darapanan, the rebel’s sprawling camp in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao.

In a resolution released Saturday, the MILF noted the exploitation of off-shore gas deposits in Sulu and the privatization of the Agus-Pulangi hydropower plants should come after the forging of a final peace deal.

“Resources constitute one of the four strands in the Bangsamoro Ancestral Domain issue that is central to the ongoing peace negotiation between the GPH and MILF,” it said.

For as long as this issue remains unresolved on the negotiating table, attempts to exploit and utilize these natural resources by foreign entities in partnership or with express permission of the government would result in depriving the Bangsamoro people of their collective proprietary right over the resources, the resolution added.

Gas exploration in Sulu Sea has been undertaken by ExxonMobil, the world’s largest publicly listed oil company.

The company’s Service Contract 56 covers an area of 8,200 square kilometers, located 200 kilometers northwest of Bongao, the capital of Tawi-Tawi.

On the other hand, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 allows the privatization of the Agus and Pulangui hydropower complexes, which is operated by the state-run National Power Corp.

The 27-member Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives, Inc. has expressed strong opposition to the privatization of Agus and Pulangui hydropower complexes, as doing so will keep power rates up because investors will have to recoup their investments.

The MILF, the largest armed Moro group in the country, clarified  they are not against economic development.

It said it welcomes economic development that is genuinely geared towards uplifting the Bangsamoro people from their impoverished state and sharing the benefits of development to all the inhabitants of Mindanao and Sulu.

The MILF said, it could not agree that such economic development should unilaterally be determined by the GPH contrary to the spirit of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of June 2001 nor should they come before the negotiated political settlement of the Mindanao problem.

Jaafar also urged investors “not to allow themselves to be accomplices in further depriving the Bangsamoro of their remaining ancestral domain.”  (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)

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