'US says Mindanao has $1-T untapped mineral resources'


MANILA, Philippines - A peace pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could be the Philippines' way out of poverty, a congressman said today citing a US intelligence assessment.

Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas, chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability, said that the success of the ongoing peace talks between the government and the MILF plays a vital role in solving poverty.

Treñas said that based on the US intelligence assessment, "the Philippines may have untapped minerals worth between US$840 billion to US$1 trillion" in Mindanao.

The congressman said that the US intelligence assessment was included in the 2006 "unclassified/for official use only" cable from the US embassy in Manila released online by Singapore-based journalist Andrew Macgregor Marshall.

He said that the assessment can only become a reality of peace and security in Mindanao is secured through the success of the government-initiated peace talks with the MILF.

Treñas said that the intelligence assessment "basically assures that peace in Mindanao could catapult the entire nation from being a third world nation into a major economic power in Asia."

"We've always known that Mindanao is fertile and rich in natural and mineral resources but I didn't realize that Mindanao's mineral wealth can single-handedly reverse our present economic situation. With this report, I'm convinced more than ever that our key to finally become a first world nation is to bring peace and development to Mindanao," he said.

The lawmaker said that the US intelligence assessment should raise the urgency for the forging of peace talks between the government and the MILF. He urged opposition congressmen to support the Aquino administration's bid to secure the peace deal.

President Benigno Aquino III had recently met with MILF leader Al Haj Murad in Tokyo. Both agreed to speed up the talks and work for the forging of a peace pact before Aquino's term expires in 2016.

Treñas said the US report should now convince skeptics that President Aquino is on the right direction in his decision to do anything possible that is within the bounds of law to guarantee the success of the peace talks between the government and the MILF.

He also dismissed claims that a peace deal between the government and the MILF is a "sell out" of the nation's patrimony because on the contrary, the full integration of the MILF and their decision to give up their quest of an independent state is a big leap forward in promoting national patrimony.

"We should stop talking about national patrimony in a manner that treats the MILF as non-Filipinos. The fact that they have given up secessionism should be considered as something that strengthens our nation and not something that weakens it," Treñas said.

Talks between the government and the MILF bogged down Tuesday after the MILF panel led by Mohagher Iqbal rejected the proposals presented by the government peace panel enumerating economic and political solutions that can end the armed conflict in Mindanao. -- Angelo L. Gutierrez

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