Unlocking the promises of Mindanao through the autonomous Bangsamoro region will include the exploration and development of Liguasan Marsh as an energy source for the region, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said.
The vast marshland located inside the proposed autonomous region produces methane gas.
A government survey showed Liguasan Marsh, surrounded by the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat, has a 300-kilometer radius of potential natural gas deposits.
Cusi said during the recent “Straight Talk with Daily Tribune” forum the Department of Energy (DoE) is pushing for Mindanao exploration, mainly the tapping of energy deposits in the marshland.
“We want to really do exploration there because this will be part of the economic solution for peace in the area,” Cusi said.
He said the development of the potential energy resource will not just be for the electricity that it will produce but also the livelihood that it will create.
“While the peace program in Mindanao focuses on stopping the conflict, we also need to pursue economic development since the people need livelihood. That’s why we are also contributing in achieving peace in the area,” Cusi said.
He added it will be mostly up to private proponents to pursue the development of energy resources in the region.
“You have the generation, transmission and distribution (aspects in the power industry) which are private undertakings. So, everything in the energy business, it’s completely in the hands of the private sector. Government is there to regulate,” he said.
“So, from generation to transmission to distribution, these are all private. That is the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Act) law,” he explained.
“The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,000 plus islands. We need to provide electricity to all of those,” Cusi said.
“While electricity supply in Luzon is reliable and it is there when you hit the switch, the situation is not the same in the provinces,” he added.
Energy needs differ
“In the provinces, it’s different. You have the problem there of generation. You have the problem there of distribution. That’s where we are really pushing our effort to develop,” the Energy chief said.
He added if the far-flung regions are given stable, reliable and efficient supply of electricity, “livelihood will thrive.”
We want to really do exploration there because this will be part of the economic solution for peace in the area.
“There will be a lot of business opportunities, not only in tourism. It will help also people in controlling people migration. Places like the tourist areas of Palawan, Mindoro, Bohol, all of these areas, you know that they will continue to improve. They will create more, there will be more — the creativity to do more business will be there, Cusi said.
In Palawan, the President lost his cool and also in Masbate due to the outages and the unreliable electricity supply. “We still have places like that,” he shared.
“Masbate does not enjoy continuous uninterrupted power supply… and in some islands they enjoy electricity only at night. Like in Bohol, there is an island, Pamilacan. I went to visit the island and the electricity (supply) there is only from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. since it is being supplied by diesel generators,” he said.
Cusi said a lot of variables come into play with the use of generator sets, such as “times when the generator engine does not start or when crude oil used as fuel fails to arrive.”
“Sometimes the problem is weak battery,” he said.
Japan readies funds
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) was the first to commit funding for projects near the marshland as it offered funding for the road projects near the area.
Senior Representative Yo Ebisawa said the agency is among the numerous groups committed to fulfill Bangsamoro’s goal as an autonomous region.
“The future project is for the future ex-combatants for the normalization process. It’s going to be a pilot model when they really start the decommissioning. Since they don’t have work, they may start with agriculture,” he said.
Even before the Bangsamoro Organic Law was approved last July 2018, JICA’s support to peace in the Bangsamoro region “was there,” Ebisawa said.
“Actually, we supported the Bangsamoro Transition Commission in drafting the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law), BBL at that time. We provided trainings for the ones drafting the BBL,” he said.