Wednesday, March 03, 2010

ARMM to exert rights over natural resources

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Mar. 3, 2010) – Breaking silence for years about deprivations within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the ARMM’s Regional Legislative Assembly is now pushing for amendment of existing edicts it berated as ‘castrating’ its constituents’ rights over the use of local strategic minerals.

The 24-member RLA presided over by Speaker Reggie Generale tasked its committee on amendments and revisions of laws to look into the protest of Lanao del Sur Assemblyman Ziaur-Rahman Adiong against stringent laws governing the exploitation of natural resources in ARMM.

In his privilege speech here Monday, Assemblyman Adiong asked the RLA to initiate an amendment to existing laws including R.A. 9054 (ARMM Organic Act of 2002), which he said bereft the regional governance of its rights to and shares from the exploitation by “outsiders” of ‘strategic minerals” in the region.

Adiong cited as example the helpless state of the regional governance in the decades-old exploitation of Lake Lanao for hydroelectricity production and the ongoing exploration of oil deposits in an 8,200-kilometer area off the shore of Mapun Island town in Tawi-Tawi.

The exploration is done by the ExxonMobil Exploration and Production B.V. through its service contract 56 permitted by the national government while ARMM authorities could just watch helplessly, Adiong said.

“The SC 56 consortium began drilling activities in the area in October last year at a cost of about $1-million per day and $100-million for its first exploration well. This well, called Dabakan-1, is located about 65 kilometers from Mapun Island in Tawi-Tawi,” he pointed out.

He said the “Department of Energy claims that the SC 56 may hold up to 750 million barrels of oil, which is equivalent to seven years’ worth of local crude supply for the Philippines.”

“We, the people of ARMM, stand to lose everything and gain nothing out of the exploration," Adiong said, due to the stringent provision of R.A. 9054 that retains to the national government the sole authority to govern the exploitation of “strategic minerals” in the region.

R.A. 9054 devolves to the ARMM government the “control and supervision over the exploration, utilization, development and protection of the mines and minerals and other natural resources within the autonomous region…except for the strategic such as uranium, petroleum, and other fossil fuels, mineral oils, all sources of potential energy, as well as national reservations already delimited by authority of the central government or national government and those that may be defined by an Act of Congress.”

Adiong clarified that the “castrating provision” of R.A. 9054 could still be remedied by way of amendment to be initiated by the RLA and sustained by Congress as provided for in the same Organic Act.

He asked the RLA to propose the amendment that would endow the regional government “a measure of control and supervision over strategic minerals like uranium, petroleum, and other natural reserves and aquatic parks, forest and watershed reservations already delimited by the central government.”

In his privilege speech, Adiong said that such amendment could also address similar helplessness that ARMM faces in the central government-controlled exploitation of Lake Lanao by the National Power Corporation as a supplier of the 85 percent or so of Mindanao’s hydroelectricity demand.

Adiong lamented that since time immemorial, the NPC and the Department of Energy “have not disclosed where really goes the electrification fund of one (1) cent per kilowatt hour of electricity sales of NPC, as mandated by virtue of Energy Resolution 1-94.”

Earlier, Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Alonto-Adiong Jr., elder brother of the assemblyman, lamented that because of the central government controls the management of Lake Lanao and its watersheds, his administration and the ARMM government could not tinker with the sad state of the lake.

Adiong said the four major river tributaries of Lake Lanao have been heavily silted for years, impeding the inflow of water down to the lake. The provincial government has long proposed the dredging of the rivers but the central government failed to act on it.

“We are hoping the national government will finally listen to our pleas this time as Mindanao is in engulfed by rampant power outages due to the dwindling water level in Lake Lanao,” he told journalists. (Ali G. Macabalang)

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