Monthly Archives: February 2015

OPINION | By the Numbers: What’s so precious in Muslim Mindanao?

Ferdinand G. Mendoza
February 14, 2015

When you get tired of reading articles and opinions about freedom, self-determination, revolutionary ideals, and similar stuff or anything conceptual about the Mamasapano carnage — the number of people killed, as can be accurately gleaned, is 44 Special Action Forces commandos, 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters and five civilians — ask yourself:

Is it really a case of terrorism? What is in Maguindanao — or Muslim Mindanao, for that matter — that is so precious, groups and countries would kill for it?

Mamasapano, the town where the carnage occurred, lies in Maguindanao, one of five provinces (including parts of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Davao del Sur, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat) that straddle the Cotabato River Basin.

Spanning 456,000 hectares, the Cotabato River Basin is one of 15 energy blocks identified by the Department of Energy as a source of oil and natural gas.

Gas, diesel fuel

In 2011, the DOE reported that the estimated amount of oil and natural gas in the Basin can produce 202 million barrels of crude oil and at least 821 billion cubic feet of gas.

One barrel is equivalent to 159 liters of crude oil. Typically, one barrel can produce 72 liters of gasoline and 45 liters of diesel fuel.

Thus, 202 million barrels of crude oil is equivalent to almost 14.5 trillion liters of gasoline and 9.1 trillion liters of diesel fuel.

The average car consumes about 12 kilometers to a liter of gasoline. To burn 14.5 trillion liters of gasoline, a car will have to run 174 trillion kilometers — enabling its driver to encircle the Earth 4.3 million times!

But since all cars have a period of obsolescence — usually five years — the 14.5 trillion liters of gasoline can fuel 50,000 cars consuming one liter to 12 kilometers, running at a constant speed of 80 kilometers per hour for five years, 24/7.

Hungry kids

Sold at current gasoline prices, pegged at say P36/liter, the 14.5 trillion liters of gasoline that can be extracted from the Cotabato River Basin would amount to P522 trillion.

Of course, the entire gas deposits could not be translated into such a lump sum. But imagine how P522 trillion could change the lives of our children.

Government figures estimate that some 15 million Filipino children today are either hungry and/or malnourished.

The Department of Education’s school feeding program has a budget of P16 per child, multiplied by 120 feeding days. This adds up to about P1,920 per child.

According to DepEd, the 120-day feeding program targets the restoration of at least 70 percent of beneficiaries to their normal nutritional status and the improvement of class attendance by 85-100 percent.

If we could allocate the money that will be generated by the crude oil from the Cotabato River Basin (P522 trillion) to the feeding of hungry and malnourished children (at P16 per child x 365 days), we will be able to properly feed those 15 million hungry and malnourished children for six years!

More oil

Another area identified for exploration is in the Sulu Sea covering 432,000 hectares, with water depths ranging from 1,500 to 5,000 meters.

According to the DOE, of the eight wells drilled in the Sulu Sea, “five show significant oil and gas deposits.” This area has around 209 million barrels of oil and 716 billion cubic feet of gas.

It is estimated that natural gas deposits in Sultan Sa Barongis in Maguindanao alone would be enough to fuel a 60-megawatt combined cycle power plant for 20 years.

Crude oil is also transformed into an infinite variety of products like petrochemicals, for example.

Petrochemicals are responsible for products we use every day: antihistamine, shampoo, lotion, food preservatives, computers, toothpaste, syringes, and toys, among others.

In 2012, as the government and MILF reached an agreement to create the Bangsamoro, replacing the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, President Benigno Aquino III halted all oil exploration projects in Mindanao. The reason: There has not been a final agreement on wealth sharing.

But it seems this wealth sharing problem has been resolved in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, the draft of which was finalized in 2014.

In Section 32 of the BBL on sharing in the exploration, development and utilization of natural resource, the Central Government’s income from taxes shall be derived from the exploration, development and utilization of all natural resources within the Bangsamoro.

The allocation shall be as follows, to quote:

“For non-metallic minerals (sand, gravel, and quarry resources), such revenues shall pertain fully to the Bangsamoro and its local government units
For metallic minerals, seventy-five percent (75%) shall pertain to the Bangsamoro
For fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and coal) and uranium, the same shall be shared equally between the Central and Bangsamoro Governments.

Such sharing scheme shall be applicable to the natural resources found in the land mass that comprise the Bangsamoro territory as well as the waters that are within the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro.”

In a press conference in 2012, MILF chairman Al Haj Murad said: “We are not against exploitation of our natural resources, including oil and gas, provided that they redound to the benefit of our people.”

All this talk about Mamasapano and the SAF44 has made me curious and so engrossed with numbers. Much of this curiosity has been satisfied with just a little digging via the friendly Google — today’s ultimate source of knowledge.

There are many stories still to be told about the long and bloody conflict in Mindanao. Mamasapano will not be the last time blood will be spilled for as long as there is a war in the Southern Philippines.

Let us honor the Valiant44 who died by not reducing the Mamasapano carnage into a costly distraction vis-a-vis the real issues and problems that grip Mindanao’s present and future.


Davao Oriental sets up oil palm dev’t program

BusinessWorld Online
Carmelito Q. Francisco
February 25, 2015

DAVAO CITY — Davao Oriental province is edging into oil palm production, starting off with the development of 1,500 hectares of farms previously planted to coconut that were devastated by typhoon Pablo (international name: Bopha) in December 2012.
P5 million was initially allocated by the provincial government to set up the Davao Oriental Oil Palm Industry Development Project as part of the local agricultural program.

Provincial Agriculturist Rotchie M. Ravelo said oil palm has been assessed to be suitable for the appointed farm lands and a more secure crop option for these areas which have been dependent on coconut before the typhoon, the strongest to hit the Davao Region in 30 years.

An estimated six million coconut trees were destroyed by typhoon Pablo, mostly in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Davao Oriental’s coconut production dropped from more than one million metric tons (MT) in 2012 to only 693,414 MT in 2013, based on data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS).

For oil palm, Davao Oriental had no recorded production as of 2013 while Compostela Valley had a minimal 2,335-MT harvest.

The Philippine Coconut Authority has drafted the first oil palm industry road map for 2014-2023 with a goal of developing 300,000 hectares of farms across the country and setting up a milling capacity of 500 tons per hour.

As of 2014, the Philippines had about 73,000 hectares planted to the crop, based on data from the Philippine Palm Oil Development Council, Inc. (PPDCI).

In a paper co-presented by PPDCI officials Pablito P. Pamplona and April Grace D. Pamplona during the Malaysian Palm Oil Council Forum on Malaysian Palm Oil held in Cebu City in August last year, Mindanao and southern Visayas were identified as highly suitable for the crop with a potential area of one million hectares.

BAS 2013 data show the Soccskargen Region led in oil palm production with 143,674 MT, followed by the Caraga Region with 136,371 MT, then the province of Maguindanao under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with 106,528 MT.

Oil palm is used in various products, including cooking oil and snacks, cosmetics, and biodiesel fuel. However, palm oil prices on the global market have been on a downtrend due to high supply and reduced demand given increased competition from alternative products.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the two biggest oil palm producers.

Among the first areas to be covered by Davao Oriental’s new program is the town of Cateel, one of the three municipalities hardest hit by typhoon Pablo.

“Other towns will also be considered for the crop,” Mr. Ravelo said.

About 100 farmers in Cateel will be given farm inputs, including seedlings, as well as training on oil palm production.

In an earlier interview, Davao Oriental Governor Corazon N. Malanyaon told BusinessWorld that oil palm is one of the crops, along with cassava and rice, that the provincial government intends to develop to fill the void left by the devastation of its coconut industry.

The local government is looking at developing an additional 2,200 hectares for rice, which will covered by a new irrigation system in Cateel, built at a cost of P281 million through funding from the World Bank under the Mindanao Rural Development Program.

Despite the development of other crops, Ms. Malanyaon said the provincial government is not abandoning coconut altogether as it is considered a “sentimental crop” by local farmers.

Coconut — in the form of crude or refined oil, desiccated, or copra oil cake — was the top agricultural export of the Philippines in 2014, with a freight on board value of $1.3 billion, which accounts for about 37% of the $3.6 billion total of the top 10 export products.– with a report from Marifi S. Jara