DAVAO CITY – While government expressed optimism that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will bring peace with a new autonomous region for Muslims in Mindanao, a group said the draft lacks its own vision to utilize its own natural resources.
Suara Bangsamoro President Amirah Lidasan, said that having defined and carved a territory for Muslim Mindanao is not enough, it’s how to protect and develop it for its people that matters.
“There’s danger that the Moro people think we may have achieve victory with the Bangsamoro,” Lidasan said, “but our hope that this setup would be different is not going to happen.”
Lidasan said after reading the draft of the BBL, she found out that the draft is merely following national development goal which include mining policies.
Current national laws such as the Mining Act of 1995 or Republic Act 7942 allows multinationals to invest in mineral-rich areas covering up to 8,000 hectares per applications.
Lidasan said a local government relying on large-scale mining has its repercussions. She cited the current governing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has been relying much of its income in the extractive mining operations in Languyan in Tawi-Tawi province.
“It’s a small island where portions get submerged during high tide. This place is rich in nickel deposits, and ARMM boast they get their income there. But you can see how slowly, pieces of this island is chipped away and shipped out to China,” she said.
The Bangsamoro territory will take over the ARMM after Congress finishes the draft BBL in early 2015 and a plebiscite will be held to determine other new areas to be included in the territory.
But Lidasan posted a challenge to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the proponent of the BBL, to think of what long-term plans they have on utilizing the Muslim Mindanao’s vast natural resources.
She pointed out that no matter how vast the resources are found in Muslim areas in Mindanao, finding investors is not the issue.
“If the same policies are maintained, the Bangsamoro will be forced to look for its own source of revenue and thus sell out its resources to big players. They should realize this is not just looking on the wealth distribution, but also on distribution of these resources for the people. We should have something left for our next generation,” Lidasan said.
The government’s Bangsamoro Development Authority identified Tawi-Tawi having rich nickel and copper deposits. The BDA also identified various minerals such as basalt, chromite, manganese, gold, silver and copper that can be found in ARMM.
Aside from metallic minerals, oil and natural gas are also luring foreign investments.
The ARMM Regional Board of Investments reported that the American Exxon-Mobil has invested in a $500-million oil and gas exploration project in the Sulu Sea.
The RBOI said that natural gas coming off Mapun Island has a potential of generating 500 billion barrels of oil and 1.5 trillion feet in natural gas.
She said the BBL has a provision defining wealth sharing on natural resources between the Bangsamoro territory and the national government.
Revenues from metallic minerals will be divided into 75% for the Bangsamoro and 25% for the national government. A 50-50 split is set for natural gas and oil activities, while the Bangsmoro will get 100% of revenues from non-metallic mining such as gravel and sand.
Last week, Miriam Colonel-Ferrer, the government chief negotiator in the talks with MILF briefed Davao media that the passing of the BBL would be the key to bring peace and development to areas in Muslim Mindanao hit hard by poverty and conflict.
“We want to achieve development and services especially to areas in Muslim Mindanao which ranked lowest in growth indicators,” she said.
“One of the factors of low development is peace and order, security issues that troubled these land for the longest time. We have to achieve both peace and development,” the chief negotiator added. (Tyrone A. Velez davaotoday.com)