March 11, 2009

MILF Official urged Goverment to cease mining permit issuance

gold
A high official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) demanded that Malacañang should stop issuing mining permits in any area under the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) pending the outcome of the peace talks.

The MILF proposes the BJE to be the governing body consolidating the areas which the government and MILF peace panels may agree to unify together as a sole recognized Muslim homeland in the South.

Peace talks between the government and the MILF began on Jan. 7, 1997, but gained headway only in 2003 with the help of Malaysia as mediator.

In a statement, Datu Jun Mantawil, secretariat chief of the MILF peace panel, urged President Arroyo and Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza to freeze all applications for mining permits in areas inside the proposed BJE.

Mantawil commented that any positive action from Mrs. Arroyo and Atienza will help restore the credibility of the 10-year-old peace process, often shaken by misunderstandings on how both sides are to establish a Muslim homeland which the MILF wants to govern.

Mantawil said indiscriminate mining operations in the South may just leave the BJE with nothing to wisely exploit as source of income to sustain a strong, economically sound Moro community.

"What will happen to BJE if all the gold, silver, copper and other natural resources are consumed?" he asked.

Many areas in the proposed BJE, including the provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, are known to have vast deposits of precious stones, metals, minerals and natural gas.

Mantawil said one of the areas that the MILF wants protected from encroachment by big mining firms is the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Marsh, a vast delta surrounded by the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan and North Cotabato.

The Liguasan Marsh is renowned for its scientifically surveyed oil and natural gas deposits.

"Spare the remaining natural resources for the sake of our people and not those of the huge multinational companies and their local contacts whose interests do not necessarily jibe with the interest of the masses," Mantawil said.

He did not say whether the MILF would work for the removal of existing mining ventures in the region.

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