Bangsamoro lawmakers seek creation of regulatory body for Ligawasan Marsh

Rommel Rebollido

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Bangsamoro lawmakers seek creation of regulatory body for Ligawasan Marsh

BARMM parliament members say the exploitation of Ligawasan Marsh threatens the historical existence and ecology of the country's largest wetland

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Lawmakers in the Bangsamoro region have pushed for the creation of a government body to manage the vast and resource-rich Ligawasan Marsh, considered the largest wetland in the country. 

The marsh (more popularly referred to as Liguasan Marsh), which comprises around 10% of the Mindanao River Basin, is home to approximately 100,000 families.

Mohammad Antao, a member of the Bangsamoro parliament, has sponsored a bill to create the Ligawasan Development Authority (LDA) to oversee the marsh’s natural resources within the jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The bill is also being pushed by parliament members Mudjib Abu, Tawakal Midtimbang, Suwaib Oranon, and Bassir Utto.

The wetland has significant potential in gas reserves and falls within the jurisdiction of BARMM. 

The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which established BARMM, provides that investment activities in the area should be jointly decided by BARMM and the national government. 

The marsh covers an area of 288,000 hectares, stretching across the provinces of Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte in the BARMM, and Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces in the Soccsksargen region.

Advocates of the proposed regulatory body cited the wetland’s historical significance to the people of the Maguindanao provinces. They noted that Ligawasan has played a crucial role in the social and economic survival of its inhabitants, especially during the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination.

Antao said the use of Ligawasan’s natural resources without proper preservation threatens the historical existence and ecology of the area. 

Antao stressed the need to address this problem urgently so that the resources can provide sustainable economic advantages to the constituents, the region, and the country.

The proposed LDA, as outlined in the bill, would cover the towns and provinces within the Ligawasan area, including Maguindanao del Sur and several towns such as Ampatuan, Datu Piang, Talitay, Pagalungan, Datu Montawal, Buluan, Pandag, Mangudadatu, Datu Paglas, Paglat, and SK Pendatun. 

In Maguindanao del Norte, the proposed LDA would cover the towns of Mother Kabuntalan, Northern Kabuntalan, and Southern Kabuntalan, as well as 47 villages within the BARMM’s special geographic area in the towns of Pikit, Midsayap, and Pigcawayan in Cotabato.

Antao said, “There is a need to urgently address the problem so that these resources would give sustainable economic advantages to the constituents, the region, and the country.”

The move came after the company SK Liguasan Oil and Gas Corporation (SKLOGC) commissioned an exploration rig in the Sultan Kudarat side of the Ligawasan Marsh in early March.

The company is Filipino-owned, and the undertaking has received the support of the Mangudadatu political dynasty in the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao del Sur provinces, particularly former governors Pax Mangudadatu and his son Suharto who led the commissioning rites.

Suharto is the husband of Maguindanao del Sur Governor Mariam Mangudadatu while their son Pax Ali is Sultan Kudarat’s governor.

The Mangudadatu patriarch expressed optimism about the prospects of the rig, saying that a “tremendous economic opportunity” awaits Sultan Kudarat once gas production goes into full swing.

Suharto said there were plans for an oil-gas pipeline that will link the drilling sites in Lambayong to an oil refinery plant and a modern port that will be built in Palimbang town, Sultan Kudarat.

The revenues generated from the drilling activities could run into billions of pesos and “help obliterate poverty in Maguindanao and the Bangsamoro region,” Suharto said. –

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