Cotabato City—The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao needs a “policy decision” by President Rodrigo Duterte to continue the stalled exploration of natural gas in Maguindanao.
BARMM officials said Interim Chief Minister Hadji Murad Ebrahim had told the President in a Palace meeting that his fledgling government needed an executive fiat delegating specific national powers if it had to assume authority to develop and allow exploration of the Ligawasan Marsh.
BARMM Interior and Local Government Minister Naguib Sinarimbo described the Wednesday meeting as being “very fruitful.”
Duterte earlier told the Moro people in a speech during an Independence Day ceremony in Malabang, Lanao del Sur to lead all development efforts for the Ligawasan Marsh as it belongs to them.
The Malaysian Petronas Carigali had started drilling exploration for natural gas in Sultan Sa Barongis, Maguindanao, but had left the site in 1993 due to the region’s peace and order problem.
The state-run Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC) had succeeded Petronas but also halted its operations, purportedly after incurring heavy losses.
Under Republic Act 11054 or the BARMM charter, the autonomous region and the national government shall co-manage of any proceeds from recovery efforts for “fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas, and coal.”
The national government may also opt to waive its part of resource-generation powers in the case of co-managing and sharing of proceeds from exploration of natural resources in the region.
Sinarimbo, who accompanied Ebrahim in the meeting, said the President maintained his Independence Day pronouncement on the Ligawasan Marsh that the Moro government should lead all development efforts pertaining to the 2,200 square-kilometer river basin.
He said Ebrahim submitted to President Duterte his nominees to intergovernmental relations bodies which, among other mandates, define relationships and functions of national and regional agencies on matters of governance, finance, budget and management, infrastructure programs, as well as between Congress and the Bangsamoro Parliament.
BARMM has turned 100 days on July 6 since its inauguration on March 29.
“DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) Secretary Eduardo Año, who is very supportive of the new regional government, also hosted us a meeting on Tuesday,” Sinarimbo said.
Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, who is poised to take over the Mindanao Development Authority, also joined the meeting as the President’s point person in BARMM, a designation that drew mixed reactions among Moro individuals on social media.
But Sinarimbo sought to clarify on some insinuations that the President had virtually placed BARMM under Piñol’s supervision.
“What the President said was that Secretary Manny Piñol is to become his point-man” to help expeditiously connect regional concerns directly to the President or to appropriate national offices.
Aside from Sinarimbo, Murad was accompanied by BARMM Finance and Budget Minister Eduard Uy Guerra and Lanao BTA Member of Parliament Abdullah Macapar, who said he was delighted the national government’s Marawi Rehabilitation Program was taken up during the meeting.
Sinarimbo said Ebrahim had updated the President on the transition status of BARMM, saying the Bangsamoro Transition Authority Parliament has passed the Transition Plan, as endorsed by the chief minister.
“This essential document contains the organizational plan, as well as the gradual phasing out of employees and offices of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,” Sinarimbo said.
Sinarimbo said the Bangsamoro Government is “now carefully implementing the Transition Plan to ensure the continuity of services, even as “it sets up a government that would truly empower the Bangsamoro through moral, genuine, and meaningful self-governance.”
He said the BARMM head deemed it most appropriate to meet top Philippine officials, including Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, as the region moves past its first 100 days on July 6, 2019.
Sinarimbo said the Moro officials also met Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez on the formation of the BARMM Finance Budget and Management Budget Board whose national members are fixed by law, being the secretaries of finance, and trade and the economic and planning secretary of National Economic Development Authority.
He said concerns that the Moro officials had taken up with the Chief Executive included the activation of the IGR Body; the Ligawasan Marsh natural gas exploration, BTA Budget; Marawi Rehabilitation; and the handover of different offices, government projects, and programs in the new territory of the BARMM.
Sinarimbo said aligned with anti-corruption drive of President Duterte, the Bangsamoro Government has implemented programs and major reforms “to institutionalize the call of the interim Chief Minister for moral governance.”
“The BARMM government has also advanced institution-building through structural and human capacity development and strategic partnerships with different organizations,” he added.
Sinarimbo said several quick impact projects were likewise implemented to bring the government closer to the people.
“The BTA Parliament, on the other hand, has held several sessions and committee meetings to jumpstart the enactment of priority legislations,” he quoted Ebrahim as telling the President.