MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday assured that untapped oil reserves believed to be beneath the Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao will not be claimed by the government.
Duterte allayed fears that the government will claim the oil, saying it belongs to the Moro people.
"Hindi na kukunin ng gobyerno 'yan. Inyo 'yan. Walang makialam diyan," he said in a speech in Davao City. "I promise you, and that's my commitment, it belongs to the Moro people."
(The government will not claim that. That is yours. No one will interfere there.)
Untapped oil and gas reserves worth an estimated $1 billion are believed to be hidden beneath Lake Buluan in Liguasan Marsh, Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu had earlier said.
The President also noted that oil exploration in the area will likely attract business and spur development.
"It will remain in your (Moros') control and possession but you just have to pay the taxes and the services that the government would spend," 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.
At present, the area is hounded by clashes between military troops and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which has lasted for a week already.