Congressman claims US wants to gain foothold in area thought to contain oil and mineral reserves valued over $1 trillion.
A Filipino congressman has accused the
Rep. Terry Ridon of the partylist Kabataan outlined his claim in the country’s House of Representatives on Monday, claiming incidents such as the Jan. 25 Mamasapano operation -- which led to the deaths of 44 police commandos -- were part of a U.S. "multi-level strategy" to gain a foothold on the Liguasan Marsh in Central Mindanao.
government and the [President Benigno] Aquino administration make it
appear that the botched Mamasapano operation and even the ongoing ‘all-out
offensive’ in Central Mindanao are part of
counterterrorism efforts," he said.
On Monday, military spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said that 73 rebels and a suspected foreign militant had been killed in the three-week offensive. Outside of the 44 police commandos, six soldiers have been killed and a further 29 others wounded.
Ridon claimed Monday that the entire offensive had one single goal -- "to drive out the Moro people from an area containing vast mineral reserves and pave the way for foreign companies to exploit said resources."
Ridon's allegation echoes similar accusations from Moro human rights group Kawagib and Suara Bangsamoro, both of whom have previously claimed that
military presence in Central Mindanao is
directly connected to the region’s oil and mineral reserves.
As early as 2008, there have been reports of U.S. oil engineers exploring the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Marsh -- the country’s largest wetland -- estimating that natural gas and mineral reserves in the area can fetch somewhere between $600 billion to $1 trillion.
The marsh spans the provinces of Maguindanao and
North Cotabato, where military forces are currently
conducting an "all-out offensive" against the Bangsamoro Islamic
Freedom Fighters, a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front
(MILF) -- who have signed a peace treaty with the government, and
newly formed group, the Justice for Islamic Movement.
Ridon on Monday blasted the "so-called counterterrorism efforts" supported by the
military as nothing more than an excuse for Americans to gain foothold in Central Mindanao.
"It’s a multi-level strategy orchestrated by none other than the
government," he said. "Let us connect the dots: U.S.
"First, they deployed the 600-strong Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines for ground operations and initial surveillance. Then they launch so-called counterterrorism offensives, one of which is the Mamasapano operation, to justify their presence in
Central Mindanao. Then, the Philippine government, for
its part, engaged in a large-scale offensive to drive out Moro communities near
"It will come as no surprise if
U.S. companies start flying into Central Mindanao shortly after for oil and mineral
explorations," claimed the young legislator.
He claimed that the army's all-out offensive is one of the culminating activities for the plan to take over Liguasan.
"And its real goal is not to capture Basit Usman but to drive away the Moro people from their ancestral lands and pave the way for commercial exploration of the mineral-rich wetland."
Filipino bomb-maker Basit Usman was reportedly wounded in the Jan. 25 Mamasapano operation that killed one of Southeast Asia’s most wanted militants, Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir -- alias Marwan.
The offensive has already displaced almost 100,000 civilians in Maguindanao and
government, with the full support and obedience of the Aquino administration,
is toying with the lives of the people of Mindanao
-- all to pursue its great economic interest in Liguasan. This strategy is
not new for the world superpower, for the same tactics were employed in the war
in Iraq and ,"
Ridon claimed. Afghanistan
He called on each and every Filipino to condemn the "systematic siege" of
in "the highest terms."