DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 June) – President Rodrigo R. Duterte urged the Bangsamoro people to take advantage of their abundant natural resources to expedite the economic development of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Speaking during the 121st Philippine Independence Day celebration at the 6th Infantry Battalion Headquarters in Malabang, Lanao del Sur, Duterte said the Bangsamoro were free to exploit the riches of their territory after the Republic Act 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM), the enabling mechanism of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, had been ratified early this year.
In his speech, the transcript of which was provided to reporters by the Presidential Communications Operations Office, Duterte mentioned about developing the 288,000-hectare Ligawasan Marsh, the country’s largest wetland believed to have untapped fossil fuel reserves.
He asked the Bangsamoro people to find partners to “exploit your territory of the riches” and make their territory progressive.
But he said the riches of the region are reserved for the young Bangsamoro people.
“Para ‘yan sa mga anak ninyo, hindi na ‘yan para sa inyo (It’s for your children, it’s not for you). That was really reserved for our children. Exploit it. Exploit the natural resources and make the Moro rich,” the President said.
He told them to “take advantage of it and hurry up the progress of the place,” reiterating his commitment that he would not allow anyone to benefit from it as he wants the Bangsamoro people to get first dibs in the oil deposits.
“We will not allow other Christians to benefit from it. Kayo muna. ‘Pag may sobra kayo, maawa naman kayo sa kapwa ninyo (You’re first. But if there’s excess, have mercy on your fellowmen),” he said.
Duterte also assured government workers of the newly-established BARMM that he would work on their salaries immediately.
“For the BARMM guys, ‘yung wala pang sweldo (those who have no salaries yet), I will work on it when I come back,” he said.
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.”
Based on the report released by the Philippine Statistics Authority last May, the BARMM showed a strong gross regional domestic product (GRPD) of 7.2% in 2018, the second highest next to Davao Region in Mindanao and the fourth highest among the country’s 17 regions. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)