Bangsamoro region registers Moro firm eyeing natural gas and oil deposits

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 B. Cabrera

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 06 July) – A Moro-owned company is eyeing to explore and develop the oil and natural gas deposits in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), an official confirmed Tuesday.

Lawyer Ishak Mastura, chair of the BARMM’s Regional Board of Investments (RBOI), said the agency granted a provisional registration to ESMaulana Global Ventures Company, Inc. (ESMaulana) as an investor in the Bangsamoro region.

ESMaulana, which is owned by the family of Cotabato City-based Engr. Esmael Maulana, is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and has paid a non-refundable P2 million to the Department of Energy (DEO) to obtain the service contract, Mastura told MindaNews.

According to ESMaulana’s briefer, it has acquired Block 10 of the Cotabato Basin straddling 384,000 hectares, including the Liguasan Marsh, and Sulu Sea Basin Block 6 covering about 1.3 million hectares.

“ESMaulana’s lifework includes the exploration and development of the natural gas deposits in the Liguasan Marsh,” Mastura said.

Mastura said that ESMaulana was the only proponent that applied to explore and develop the pre-determined areas for Block 10 of the Cotabato Basin and Block 6 of the Sulu Sea Basin.

In a separate statement, Mastura said that ESMaulana’s proposed petroleum investment in the BARMM was lodged under DOE’s Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program.

Mastura said the proposed investment of ESMaulana for the Cotabato and Sulu basins would amount to nearly P1 billion.

However, the DOE has yet to award the service contracts for the proposed petroleum projects in the Bangsamoro region, the official said.

The proposed investment project of ESMaulana in the Liguasan Marsh and the Sulu Sea are subject to the joint determination by the BARMM government and the national government, through the Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB).

The creation of the IGRB is provided for under Section 2, Article VI of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) to coordinate and resolve issues between the two parties through regular consultation and continuing negotiation.

The awarding of the service contract for ESMaulana was held in abeyance by the DOE pending the discussions at the IGRB involving petroleum investments in the Bangsamoro region, Mastura said.

The Office of the President will issue the final approval of the service contract, he added.

Mastura explained that EsMaulana registered with the RBOI-BARMM so that they can already prepare, recruit and train manpower, as well as obtain capital equipment for future exploration, utilization and development of their target areas in the BARMM.

The registration of the investment project does not mean that ESMaulana can already proceed with their exploration, development and utilization, but the registration of their investment project could mean that they are recognized as a company operating in the BARMM area, he said.

Mastura said the BOL provides preference to BARMM residents in the exploitation of its natural resources, particularly petroleum like oil and gas.

No fiscal incentives were given to ESMaulana by the RBOI-BARMM because petroleum companies have their own terms and conditions under a service contract.

However, ESMaulana can, in the future, apply for reduced duties and taxes for importation of capital equipment should their oil and gas venture progress during their talks with the BARMM government and the national government, Mastura said. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)