By ANDY OROBIA & MARK NAVALES
LUGUS ISLAND, Sulu — A US$2.3-billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) refinery plant will soon be constructed on Lugus Island, Sulu province.
The funding also covers the Lugus Island Petroleum Park (LIPP) with several components.
Sulu is one of the component provinces of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Once completed the project will be the single biggest investment in the BARMM, whose provinces and communities are perennial bottom-dwellers in the Philippines poverty index. The project should help lift at least Sulu in the index.
The LNG refinery plant is a project under the partnership of the Lugus Island local government unit (LGU) headed by Mayor Hadar Hajiri and a British company, the Energy World International Limited (EWIL).
Groundbreaking ceremony for the project worth in Philippine money around Php163 billion was held on October 22, 2019.
The mayor of Lugus municipality welcomed the project, describing it as “phenomenal.”
“This is phenomenal, and we welcome it as a great opportunity to enhance lives in Sulu, particularly in our town,” Hajiri, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Hadar and Medzar Oil and Gas Corp. (HMOGC), said at the groundbreaking.
The HMOGC is the local partner of the EWIL, a British firm already engaged in several energy projects in the country.
Hajiri is confident the Sulu Sea’s oil and gas reserve will provide a clean and affordable energy to Filipinos as well as to the world. It will also contribute in alleviating the rising energy demand of the country.
EWIL Executive Director Graham Elliot, an engineer, vowed to conduct the project equitably and in an environment-friendly way.
“It is our desire to utilize the resources indigenous to Sulu Region so that we can bring equitable development to Lugus island. I give you our word that we will develop our project in an equitable and environmentally sustainable manner because we must provide clean and affordable energy for the archipelago, for Mindanao, and the nation of the Philippines so that we can move forward together,” Elliot assured.
Officials from the BARMM led by Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) Minister Dickson P. Hermoso, Sulu officials, and other guests joined the groundbreaking of the project, believed to usher in economic development and prosperity.
A former high-ranking officer in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), he spoke of the BARMM’s being in the tail end of development.
“We at the Bangsamoro region are 30 years behind in terms of development. Sulu Sea has strategic mineral deposits and rich with oil and gas. Your natural gas will propel great economic development not only in this island but for the whole Philippines,” an optimistic Hermoso said.
“I can visualize that 10 to 20 years from now, your housing and the education of your children can already be subsidized because of your mineral deposit.”
Hermoso represented at the event BARMM Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Al-Hajj Murad” Balawag Ebrahim, the chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“On behalf of the Interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, Al Hajj, let us endeavor together to develop the whole of Bangsamoro. Industrial tourism can be viable in this area once the Lugus Island Petroleum Park (LIPP) commences,” he said.
Soon to rise with the LNG refinery is the LIPP complex that will house several infrastructures on Lugus Island, including an export terminal, a seaport, an airport, an industrial district, a residential area, and a power plant generation plant.
As part of the development plan of Lugus Island Petroleum Park (LIPP) complex, several infrastructures will rise within the island. Lugus will have an export terminal, a seaport, an airport, an industrial precinct, a residential area, and a power generation plant.
Another dignitary at the groundbreaking was Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) Commander Lt. General Cirilito Sobejana, who is seen as a hero by the Lugus inhabitants for resolving several deadly rido (family feuds) that ripped apart clans on the island.
The Wesmincom head acknowledged that a military solution is not enough to get rid of the security problem.
“Our security problem cannot be solved by military action alone, we really need partners, the local, provincial and regional government together with the business sector so that we can move forward,” said Sobejana.
“Our groundbreaking ceremony of the LNG refinery plant today could be a start of economic development of Lugus and the whole of Bangsamoro Region. This is not owned by a single person alone, this is owned by the Bangsamoro people and the entire nation will benefit from this project.”
Lugus Vice Mayor Almedzar A. Hajiri was equally forward-looking.
“Thru the development of this project as sufficient magnitude that is fairly shared with the local population, peace, harmony and positive economic future can be obtained. We pray that today’s occasion will pave the way for the realization of this unprecedented project,” he said.
Sulu Gov. Hajji Abdusakur Tan, who was represented by his son, Vice Gov. Abdusakur “Toto” Tan II, also share his sentiments.
“In sha Allah (God willing), the resources to be harnessed in the waters in parts of Sulu will pave the way for better days ahead, promising prosperity to our people as integral to peace and development efforts,” the elder Tan said.
It was estimated the LNG extraction process will last at least 50 years and generate employment on Lugus Island as well as transform it to a world-class industrial and tourist destination. (AO/MN)