GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – A member of the Aquino Cabinet openly expressed her displeasure over what she described as an attempt to grant the proposed Bangsamoro region the “exclusive authority” over natural resources in the area.
Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chief Lualhati Antonino said she’s wary that the central government will lose control over natural resources such as Lake Lanao, a major energy source in Mindanao, once the Bangsamoro region is set up.
When reached for comment, Mohaqer Iqbal, chief of the peace panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said Antonino should take up the issue with “her government” not with the MILF. “Matagal na niyang sinasabi iyan (She has been saying that for a long time). I will not get into an argument with her,” Iqbal said.
Iqbal is also the head of the 15-person Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which was submitted last month to President Benigno Aquino III. The President is expected to certify the draft as an urgent congressional measure.
Iqbal said Antonino should acknowledge that Lake Lanao is “within the Bangsamoro territory and not in South Cotabato.”
Antonino however conceded she has not seen the final draft of the BBL.
The BBL is the product of months of negotiations and consultations between the Aquino government and the MILF, which signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) to end more than 4 decades of war in Mindanao.
The Aquino government is committed to passing a law that would embody the 4 major points of agreement in the peace process, among them fiscal autonomy and control over natural resources in new autonomous areas identified by the proposed bill.
Lake Lanao is located in Lanao del Sur, which is a member province of the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The lake feeds the Agus River hydroelectric power plant complexes. The 6-cascading hydroelectric power plants along Agus River have a combined rated capacity of 727 megawatts but are only able to generate 624 megawatts at best.
The new ARMM was itself created after the Ramos government signed a deal with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996.
The MILF is a breakaway group of the MNLF.
Antonino was a vocal critic of the peace accord with the MNLF, openly discrediting it. She campaigned for a “no” vote during the plebiscite that happened after.
She was then a member of the House of Representatives representing the 2nd District of South Cotabato (including General Santos).
Antonino, as well as then Mindanao congresswomen Clara Lobregat and Daisy Avance-Fuentes, belonged to the so-called “Tres Marias” in Congress who opposed the peace agreement entered into by then President Fidel Ramos and MNLF chairman Nur Misuari. – Rappler.com
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