This official statement of the Candao clan is with reference to an alleged report made by the United States Embassy tagging the name of my father, former ARMM Governor Datu Zacaria Candao, as a claimant of the Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao. Said report was prepared during the time of US Ambassador Kenney to the Philippines in 2006 but was made available in Wikileak early this week.
In the name of TRUTH and FAIRNESS, we stand by the fact that the US Embassy diplomatic cable is “baseless and unfounded."
For the record, my father, Datu Zacaria Candao, has not filed any claim of the Liguasan Marsh in the past nor has he authorized any member of the Candao clan or any third party to lobby or make a claim of Liguasan Marsh on his behalf.
My father has openly addressed this problem during his incumbency as a major issue that has to be resolved between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF.
As a staunch advocate of peace in Maguindanao, the former Governor would support all talks between the Philippine Government and the MILF to settle the conflict over Liguasan Marsh.
For the interest of my readers, here is the full text of the original news from GMA News Online.
posting08/20/2011 | 02:18 AM
GMA News Online
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not let go of mineral-rich ancestral lands in Mindanao, particularly an expanse known as the Liguasan Marsh, according to a “sensitive but unclassified" cable message of the United States’ Manila Embassy to Washington D.C.
A Singapore-based freelance journalist posted on his blog the supposed WikiLeaks-sourced diplomatic cable message sent in February 2006 when the US ambassador to Manila was still Kristie Kenney.
The US Embassy cable said, “MILF Vice-Chairman of Political Affairs Ghazali Jafaar has referred to the Liguasan Marsh as a "legacy from our forefathers" and stated that the Bangsamoro people…would not part with their lands in the marsh."
It noted the MILF even established a “Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) to lead, manage, and determine developmental efforts, including in the Liguasan Marsh."
The US Embassy recalled that in the late 1990s the Philippine National Oil Company and Malaysia’s state-run oil firm, Petronas, found natural gas and oil in five sites in the marsh, which covers a massive 288,000 hectares in the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat.
“According to the PNOC, the estimated natural gas deposits in Sultan Sa Barongis alone would be enough to fuel a 60MW combined cycle power plant for 20 years," the embassy cable said.
“However, the PNOC and Petronas suspended operations in the Liguasan Marsh area due to threats from the MILF and extortion by local mayors and political warlords," the transmission added.
The US Embassy pointed out that the Liguasan Marsh “remains an important MILF stronghold, home to an estimated 280,000 Muslims, and an area where members of the terrorist Jemaah Islamiya have historically conducted training and sought refuge."
Several powerful Mindanao political clans have “competing land ownership claims" in the marsh, according to the US Embassy.
“The clan of former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zacaria Candao has already staked a claim to 40 percent of this land, while other clans — including the Mangudadatus and Pendatuns — have claimed at least 50 per cent ownership," the cable noted.
The Ampatuan and Alamada clans were also mentioned as having land claims in the Liguasan Marsh.
The US Embassy said the various land claims “will make exploitation of these resources difficult."
“Multinational firms are already eyeing areas in Mindanao for possible projects," as of the early 2006, the US Embassy said, noting that those interested in mining and energy exploration in the Philippines grew significantly since the Supreme Court declared the Mining Act constitutional.
The embassy noted that firms up to 100 percent foreign-owned may now invest in large-scale search for oil, gas and minerals.
Back in 2008, the head of the Moro National Liberation Front — the organization from which the MILF splintered — Nur Misuari had pointed out that the Liguasan Marsh holds billions of dollars in gas.
Last year, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has embarked on restoring the ecosystem of the Liguasan marsh. (End of report)
I have already made known my side to the news site and in fairness, they have included our official statement in their updated version on the same day.
I decided to write this official statement as our final statement on this controversy. All media outlets can make use of this note as reference of the truth from our side.
Thank you very much for your time.