By Antonio Colina IV and Ali Macabalang
DAVAO CITY/COTABATO CITY – President Rodrigo R. Duterte urged on Wednesday the Bangsamoro people to take advantage of their abundant natural resources to expedite the economic development of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Speaking at the 121st Philippine Independence Day celebration at the 6th Infantry Battalion Headquarters in Malabang, Lanao del Sur, the President said the Bangsamoro people are free to exploit the riches of their territory after Republic Act 11054, the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM), the enabling mechanism of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, was ratified early this year.
Duterte mentioned about developing the 288,000-hectare Ligawasan Marsh, the country’s largest wetland believed to have untapped fossil fuel reserves.
He asked the Bangsamoro people to find partners to “exploit your territory of the riches” and make their territory progressive.
But he said the riches of the region are reserved for the young Bangsamoro people.
“Para ‘yan sa mga anak ninyo, hindi na ‘yan para sa inyo (It’s for your children, it’s not for you). That was really reserved for our children. Exploit it. Exploit the natural resources and make the Moro rich,” he said.
He told them to “take advantage of it and hurry up the progress of the place,” reiterating his commitment that he would not allow anyone to benefit from it as he wants the Bangsamoro people to get first dibs in the oil deposits.
Muslim officials hailed President Duterte’s celebration of the 121st Independence Day in Malabang, Lanao del Sur, saying the record-setting event “fleshed out” the Chief Executive’s commitment to “correct historical injustices” among the country’s minority Bangsamoro sector.
National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Secretary Saidamen Pangarugan and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Minister of Local Government Naguib Sinarimbo said Duterte’s celebration of the national event in Lanao del Sur on Wednesday was “historic and very inspiring.”
Minister Sinarimbo joined Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Alonto-Adiong Jr. in welcoming the President and his party on Wednesday in Malabang, which the President acknowledged as important part of Philippine history.
“It was here in Malabang, Lanao del Sur that then Acting President, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, was executed by the Japanese for refusing to cooperate with them during the invasion of the Philippines,” Duterte said in a speech, calling Santos “a true patriot even to the last moment.”
Duterte, accompanied by Secretaries Delfin Lorenza of National Defense and Eduardo Año of the Interior and Local Governments as well as National Historical Commission Chairman Vic Badoy, led the wreath-laying at the monument of Abad Santos in Malabang town.
Due to the “far-reaching significance” of Duterte’s choice of Lanao del Sue as a venue for the national celebration, Sec. Pangarungan said all NCMF regional and provincial offices organized separate gatherings of Muslims across the country to “let them feel the sense of national belonging.”
The NCMF’s main celebration was staged at Manila’s Lune Park where booths were installed to showcase various memorabilia and relics concerning Bangsamoro concerns and aspirations.