Condemn Duterte-AFP’s all-out war to occupy Liguasan Marsh

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) strongly condemns
the Duterte regime and the Armed Forces of the Philippines’
(AFP) all-out war which targets the Moro civilian population
living in areas surrounding the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Marsh,
in a brazen attempt to force the hand of the Moro people to
accept the ignominies of Duterte’s Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL),
cripple the Moro people’s resistance, and at same time occupy
and control the area’s vast natural resources.

Under the guise of running after so-called terrorists, the AFP
has mounted relentless large-scale offensives and aerial
bombardments in wide areas around the Liguasan Marsh.

Starting June 10, combined forces of the 33rd Infantry
Battalion, 61st Division Reconnaissance Company, and the
Philippine National Police’s Fourth Special Action Battalion
launched sustained “surgical” airstikes and ground attacks
which has now lasted for days. These attacks supposedly target
gunmen of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and
destroy bombmaking facilities located along parts of
Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces bordering the Liguasan
Marsh.

Hiding under the thin veneer of eradicating terrorism, Duterte’s
armed forces have literally occupied the towns along Liguasan
Marsh, gravely disrupting the life and livelihood of thousands
of families. The AFP reports its massive ground operations and
air strikes killed about 25 BIFF fighters and destroyed a bomb
factory, a claim the BIFF denies. Such operations have caused
tremendous hardships on the Moro population, displacing at
least 20,000 individuals from the affected areas which include
the towns of Pagalungan, Datu Montawal, Raja Buayan, and SK
Pendatun in Maguindanao, and Pikit in North Cotabato.

With Mindanao under martial law, the AFP applies unemcumbered
the US-directed Marawi tactics of laying siege on entire
civilian communities using overwhelming firepower and large
number of forces, thereby rapidly establishing military power
over the Bangsamoro area and control of the vast marshland.

Duterte’s war policy against the Moro people not only brazenly
disregards their aspiration for genuine peace, but also has
profit at its core. Duterte, the burgeoning autocrat, seeks
control over the huge reservoir of natural gas in Liguasan
Marsh. Estimates show that the Cotabato Basin, of which
Liguasan Marsh is a huge portion, contains about 202 million
barrels of oil and about 821 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
American oil engineers estimate that the natural gas in Liguasan
Marsh alone amount to over $580 billion.

The Duterte regime connives with many foreign investors who have
already expressed intent not only in exploring the natural gas
reserves, but also in building vast plantations in the
marshland. In 2013, Malaysian businessmen have already
expressed willingness to invest $575 million to cultivate
66,000 hectares of Liguasan into an oil palm plantation.

Duterte’s standing order to pass his version of the BBL is
intrinsically connected with these so-called economic
opportunities. An essential part of the BBL includes the
controversial wealth-sharing provisions which opens up the
Bangsamoro resources to foreign plunder and puts the Moro
people at a great disadvantage. The use of pervasive and
excessive force directly seeks to force the Moro people to
surrender to Duterte’s BBL.

The CPP and all revolutionary forces of the Filipino people are
in complete solidarity with the Moro people in their aspiration
and struggle for their right to self-determination and defense
against the brutal Duterte regime. We fully support the Moro
people’s determination to persevere and intensify their fight
by sustaining both unarmed and armed resistance against the
regime’s manic attempts to oppress and exploit their people and
resources. The Filipino and Moro peoples stand united against
this unprecedented catastrophe called the Duterte regime and
its war to lay waste on the Bangsamoro.