MANILA—"Exploit your resources" was the message of President Rodrigo Duterte to Moros in Mindanao on Wednesday, given the newly established Bangsamoro Region.
"Now that you have the BOL (Bangsamoro Organic Law), I guarantee you (to) exploit your resources. Madaliin na ninyo. Ang sabi ninyong Liguasan Marsh walang makialam niyan, inyo ‘yan. That was my commitment to you," Duterte said during Independence Day rites in Lanao del Sur.
(Speed it up. We won't claim the Liguasan Marsh. That is yours.)
Duterte last year assured Moros that untapped oil reserves believed to be beneath the Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao will not be claimed by the government.
"You don’t have the money, look for partners, exploit your territory of the riches. Para 'yan sa mga anak ninyo, hindi na 'yan para sa inyo. That was really reserved for our children. Exploit it. Exploit the natural resources and make the Moro rich," he said.
The Liguasan Marsh area has seen the bloodiest of clashes between government troops and Muslim rebels, including one encounter in Mamasapano town in 2015 that left 44 police commandos killed and scuttled peace negotiations.
The President added that he supports the expansion of the Bangsamoro region and reached out to Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari.
"Basta tayo, magkapatid. At ‘yung inyong BOL kung palakihan pa ninyo 'yan, 'di palakihan pa ninyo. And if Misuari is willing, same. I'll give it to him para lang makaabot natin ‘yung kapayapaan," he said.
(We are brothers. And if you will expand the BOL, then go ahead. and if Misuari is willing, same. I'll give it to him just so we can have peace.)
The President has banked on the Bangsamoro region to heal historical injustices suffered by the Moros.