By Ali G. Macabalang
After 25 years of existence, the Bangsamoro autonomous government will be taking over the management of hydro-electricity sources within its territorial jurisdiction to supply energy to the public and utilities in neighboring regions, according to lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo.
The bright prospect hinges on a provision in R.A. 11054, also known as Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which provides for the regional government to become energy distributor after 25 years of existence to be reckoned from the passage of the law in July 2018, Sinarimbo told the Philippine Muslim Today in a recent exclusive interview.
Sinarimbo, spokesman and minister of local government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), narrated during the interview how he and negotiators from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) tangled with lawmakers in their desire for the regional government to wield authority over “inland waters” within the area of autonomy.
Lake Lanao, the country’s second largest water body located in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur, is considered as an “inland water” in the autonomous region, and has been serving as major source of hydro-electricity to Mindanao and parts of Visayas.
Sinarimbo recalled that at least one senator, believed to be allied with officials of the power-distributing Aboitiz firm, strongly opposed the incorporation in the BOL of a provision that would automatically empower the BARMM entity to manage “inland waters” upon its inception.
Lobbies and bargaining discussions at the Senate level and bicameral conferences resulted to the incorporation of a BOL provision that authorizes the BARMM government to enjoy supervision and management of “inland waters” like Lake Lanao only after 25 years upon the passage of the regional charter in 2018, Sinarimbo hinted.
BARMM comprises the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, the cities of Cotabato, Lamitan and Marawi and 63 villages in North Cotabato.
The region and its component areas rely primarily on electric supply generated by the National Power Corporation and distributed by companies like the Aboitiz group.
Regional autonomy stakeholders had expressed dismay over the hesitance of the national authorities to grant the autonomous government an automatic authority over the management of Lake Lanao.
They argued that Lake Lanao is not only a major source of hydro-electricity but is also directly associated with the socio-economic and cultural makeup of the autonomous regional populace, particularly the Meranao tribe.
The term “Meranao” is literally meant “people around the lake.” Thus, their social identity is attached to state of the Lake. In an unlikely event that the lake dries up, the Meranos would become “people of the mountain.”
Proponents for local management of Lake Lanao have also been asserting the religious importance of the lake in the Meranao tribe, the fresh water body being surrounded by several masjids (mosques) that depend on the lake’s water.
In the interview with the Philippine Muslim Today, Minister Sinarimbo pointed out that local revenues in BARMM will tremendously increase by several folds once the regional government start managing Lake Lanao and distributing electricity to power distributors. (AGM)