Friday Jun, 09 2023 10:24:33 PM

Stakeholders wants Liguasan Delta gas tapped now

Climate Change/Environment • 17:00 PM Sat Apr 8, 2023
John M. Unson
 A view of the northern side of the Liguasan Delta. (John Unson)

COTABATO CITY - The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has urged Malacañang and the Bangsamoro government to start exploring the natural gas deposits in the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta, touted as Asia’s largest.

Studies done by experts from abroad and the national government showed that the bulk of the natural gas deposits in the Liguasan Delta are underneath swamps along towns in Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte that are inside what is now the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, most known by its acronym BARMM.

The chairman of the MNLF’s central committee, Muslimin Sema, who is BARMM’s current labor minister, told reporters Saturday they want the Bangsamoro government, the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and potential benefactors to start extracting now the natural gas from the delta, apprehensive of an influx of outsiders wanting to explore fossil fuel in the area too.

“It should be the Bangsamoro government that should lead the exploration efforts. If we lack scientific and engineering capacity to do it, we can ask help from wealthy states supporting the national government’s peace process with southern Moro communities,” Sema said.

The Liguasan Delta is a catch basin of large rivers that spring from hinterlands in the provinces of Bukidnon, North Cotabato, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat and drains into the western seashores of Cotabato City via the Rio Grande de Mindanao and Tamontaka Rivers. 

Surveys in the 1990s showed that the largest volume of natural gas deposits in Liguasan Delta are in marshes in the Sultan sa Barongis and Radjah Buayan towns in BARMM’s Maguindanao del Sur province.

Experts from the Petronas Carigali of Malaysia and the Philippine National Oil Company together initiated a survey of the potential exploration sites in Barangay Tukanakuden in Sultan sa Barongis in 1997, but pulled out when their Army escorts and local Moro guerillas figured in clashes for lack of coordination.

Two servicemen of the Philippine Navy’s 2nd Marine Brigade that reinforced the soldiers in Sultan sa Barongis that Moro rebels harassed then got killed in gunfights that ensued.

“The MILF had reached a peace accord that resulted in the creation of BARMM in 2019. Malacañang and the BARMM government can, thus, be partners now in extracting the natural gas deposits in Sultan sa Barongis and other municipalities inside BARMM’s territory,” Sema said.

The chief minister of BARMM, Ahod Ebrahim, is chairman of the central committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a bloc of Muslim states, including wealthy petroleum-exporting nations in the Middle East and North Africa, supported Malacañang’s peace talks with the MNLF that paved the way for the crafting of its September 2, 1996 peace agreement with Malacañang.

Malaysia, also a member of the OIC, helped broker the MILF’s two compacts with Malacañang --- the 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and, subsequently, the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

Japan, Norway and a number of countries belonging to the OIC also extended support to the government-MILF peace talks that lasted for 22 years and culminated with the creation of BARMM in early 2019.


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