MILF: Put off oil exploration bids in Liguasan



DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) - The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday, October 30, called on the government to suspend the awarding of oil exploration permits covering more than 1,056,000 hectares of land included in the proposed Bangsamoro homeland.

Among the areas being eyed for oil exploration are those near Liguasan Marsh, a stronghold of the MILF.

MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim explained that the awarding of the exploration permits must be postponed until the issue of wealth-sharing in the Bangsamoro entity is resolved. Both sides enter the next phase of the peace process this month, when they meet in Kuala Lumpur to tackle the annexes in the Framework Agreement signed October 15.

“We have rich mineral resources in the area. It is only a matter of exploiting these resources,” Murad said.

He said however that these resources should be exploited with the end goal of providing benefits to the community.

The MILF said that the Department of Energy has approved for bidding at least two exploration areas in the region including Area 11 (600,000 hectares) and Area 12 (456,000 hectares) in Cotabato.

Energy Undersecretary Jay Layug, when reached for comment, said the government still do not know the quantity of oil reserves in the Liguasan marsh since no well has been drilled within the Area 12 contract area.

"We do not have an estimate of potential oil resource in Area 12 which is located in the Cotabato basin. Based purely on technical definition, at best, we have 71 and 13 million barrels of mapped and unmapped oil resources, respectively in the entire Cotabato basin," he told Rappler.

"Area 12 is only a portion of the Cotabato basin. Area 11...is not in Cotabato basin but in East Palawan basin," he added.

The MILF said that the mineral resource in the area has an estimated capacity of 158 million barrels of oil equivalent. More than 10 wildcat drills are already in place in the area for the exploration operations, the MILF revealed.

The Aquino government and the MILF have agreed to set the stage for the creation of a Bangsamoro region, which will enjoy fiscal and political autonomy, among others. A transition commission composed of representatives from both sides will soon be formed to hammer out a draft law on the Bangsamoro. - Rappler.com