Duterte: oil and natural gas in Ligawasan Marsh belong to Moro people

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17  June) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday night assured the Moro people that they would remain in control and possession of the huge untapped fossil fuel reserves in the 288,000-hectare Ligawasan Marsh, the country’s largest wetland.

Duterte said during the 2018 Eid’l Fitr Celebration at the SMX Convention Center Davao that the Moro people have nothing to worry about the fossil fuel reserves. The marshland has been reported to be rich in natural gas and oil deposits.

“If there are trillions of cubic meters of oil, do not be worried at all. Hindi na kukunin ng gobyerno ‘yan. Inyo ‘yan. Walang makialam niyan (The government will not take it. That’s yours. Nobody will intervene there),”

Resource-rich Ligawasan Marsh. MindaNews file photo by KEITH BACONGCO

The President said the marshland, which straddles provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat., “belongs to the Moro people” and that he committed he will not allow the elite to take hold of the fuel reserves there.

While Duterte assured that they would remain in control and possession natural gas and possibly oil reserves, the President told the Moro people not to prevent other people, including Muslims, Christians, and Lumad, from joining “the fray to enjoy progress and development” should there be any commercial activity in the Ligawasan Marsh.

“Wala tayong apihan dito (No one should get oppressed here). It will remain in your control and possession. But you just have to pay the taxes and the service that the government that would spend,” he added.

At present, it is the national government, not the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that has control over these resources. Whether or not the proposed successor autonomous government – the Bangsamoro –  or the future Bangsamoro state in a federal system will be given that power will depend on the final version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the Constitution of the future Federal Philippines, respectively.

According to Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), the Ligawasan Marsh consists of river tributaries, small lakes and ponds, freshwater marshes, and some 140,000 hectares of arable land that surfaces and gets cultivated during dry months.

It added the marshland “supports species of threatened endemic birds, including the Philippine eagle and the Philippine duck, the Philippine crocodile, and various other species.”

On May 19, Duterte led the ceremonial opening of the $30.80 million or equivalent to P1.6 billion Oil and Gas Production of the Alegria Oilfield Polyard-3 Well Site in Alegria, Cebu. The oilfield covers a total area of 197,000 hectares with about 42,749 hectares devoted to the production area.

A press release issued by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) said the oilfield is currently operated by China International Mining Petroleum Company Ltd. with its partners Skywealth Group Holdings Ltd. And Phil-Mal Energy International Inc. (Antonio Colina IV/ MindaNews with a report by Carolyn O. Arguillas)