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BARMM to continue natural gas exploration

Cotabato City—The Bangsamoro autonomous government wants recovery efforts to continue from a long-stalled natural gas exploration in Sultan Sa Barongis, Maguindanao.

Sources said Hadji Murad Ebrahim, interim chief minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is slated to meet President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang early next week to take up, among other things, the stalled natural gas exploration in Ligawasan Marsh in Cotabato Upriver Valley.

Mr. Duterte previously told the Moro people in a speech during Independence Day celebration he attended in Malabang, Lanao del Sur to lead all development efforts for the Ligawasan Marsh as it belongs to them.

BARMM Deputy Executive Secretary Abdullah Cusain said a meeting has, indeed, been slated next week between Murad and the President, but would not confirm as to whether the Ligawasan Marsh was in the agenda of their executive talk.

Cusain said Murad is being “profoundly apologetic” for not having met the President during the Eid’l Fit’r dinner tendered by Malacañang on June 5 for the country’s Muslim leaders, as he had by then already left for the Umrah religious trip to Mecca.

Murad would also have met the President on June 12 in Malabang, Lanao Sur, but again unable to catch up with official schedules for which many among current Moro appointees are still on adjustment period from erstwhile interior life. 

Two top officials of the BARMM had visited on July 1 a drilling site left concrete-sealed by a unit of the Philippine National Oil Co.-Exploration Corp. in Sultan Sa Barongis, Maguindanao. 

Minister Naguib Sinarimbo of the BARMM Ministry of the Interior and Local Government said he and BARMM Minister Abdulraof Macacua of the Ministry Environment, Natural Resources and Energy visited the drilling site of the PNOC-EC in Barangay Tukanakuden in Sultan Sa Barongis town in Maguindanao.

Sinarimbo said Republic Act 11054, the BARMM charter, provides for co-managing by the autonomous region and the national government of any proceeds from recovery efforts for “fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas, and coal.” Revenues generated from exploration shall be “shared equally between the national government and Bangsamoro government.”

Residents in the area boast of deep-wells that appear to contain flammable gas from underground, a potable liquid that burns when lit on container or at gushing pipe faucet.

The marsh water, flammable whether pumped through pipes or fetched in containers from deep-wells, has been shown in videos uploaded on social media. 

Since the Marcos administration, the Philippine government and a Malaysian firm had endeavored to join hands on natural gas exploration and recovery efforts in Ligawasan, including the digging of the Kulanguan Diversion Channel in 1980 to drain a huge portion of the marsh, but which has altered the natural course of the Mindanao River.

In 1994, the Malaysian-owned Petronas Carigali stopped its exploration operation because of armed conflict in Barangay Tukanakuden where massive natural gas deposits were then the object of huge pipe drilling.

PNOC-EC succeeded from where the Petronas had left, and the Philippine government exploration was officially opened in Tukanakuden by then PNOC President Ramon Mitra Jr. in 1999.

In his statement to residents then, Mitra was straightforward as to describe as “mind-boggling” the underground natural gas deposits in Sultan Sa Barongis, which many experts had estimated at 10 billion liters. But again, the PNOC-EC halted its operation on the third drilling near Barangay Tabungao (in what is now Rajah Buayan town) in 2005, purportedly due to heavy losses and peace and order problem.

Residents said some heavy equipment units rented to PNOC-EC by private contractors were seen drowned in a stream of quick sand in Barangay Tukanakuden. They believe the Marsh was and still is an an enchanted kingdom where Mother Nature is “protected by forces of unseen spirits.”

Macacua and Sinarimbo said, as Muslims, they both believe that unseen spirits formed part of God’s creations.

Residents said PNOC-EC workers talked about long-term exploration and recovery programs for gargantuan deposits of natural gas, and of fossils crude on second level down.

Still, for some people a flammable liquid is hardly conclusive that methane gas deposits were anywhere close for a find underground.

Most common studies on combustion reveal that it results from a “rapid chemical combination of a substance with oxygen [like water] in the process of producing heat and light.”

Topics: Hadji Murad Ebrahim , Kulanguan Diversion Channel , Abdullah Cusain , Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao
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