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Conflict over natural resources

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The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has issued warning to the national government from pushing through with its plan to pursue gas and oil explorations in Sulu and Cotabato. Mohagher Iqbal, the chief negotiator for peace with the government, cautioned that there will be trouble if the later will insist on its plan to invite prospective investors to explore the gas and oil resources in the area.

The caution came caveat that if the government will insist on its plan there will likely be trouble. He did not discount the possibility that even the so- called rogue elements of the secessionist fronts will ride on the issue.

We do not know where the MILF is coming from. Sec. Teresita Deles, the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, responded quite appropriately that there is nothing in existing agreements with the MILF that prevents the government from exploring, developing and utilizing the natural resources in the region. Presently, the Front has no moral ascendancy to dictate on the Philippine government what it wishes to do with its resources. We want to believe that whatever development that takes place in the region, the primary beneficiaries will be the Filipino citizens in that area regardless of what tribe or religion do they belong. Saber rattling is not what is good at this point although the statement of the MILF offered a valuable precautionary source of information that despite earlier statement that they have severed ties with the likes of Commanders Umbra Kato and Bravo the MILF will always welcome them back to the Front whenever or wherever necessary.

The exploration and exploitation of natural resources in Sulu and Cotabato must not be made a deterrent to the peace negotiation. Instead, it should encourage both parties to come to a meaningful agreement so that the utilization of the natural resources in the region be hastened to rev up the development of the region. The government and the MILF can draw up a mechanism whereby the autonomous government will have a share of the proceeds. It will be noteworthy if the MILF can negotiate with the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in mind and not as a Front. In this manner those who are not identified with the MILF will not be excluded from their intention. They must bear in mind that the overwhelming majority are weary of the seemingly unending conflict and one more threat from the rogue elements does not sit well with their aspiration for tranquility and opportunities that can only be theirs in an atmosphere of stable peace and security.

By Menardo Wenceslao




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