Wao group backs Bangsamoro entity; but seeks town’s exclusion

MALAYBALAY CITY – A civil society organization in Wao, Lanao del Sur has confirmed that they are gathering thousands of supporters Thursday to express support to the Comprehensive Agreement for the Bangsamoro but has appealed to officials that their town be excluded from it.  

Perla Iniego, spokesperson of Lihok Wao (Act Wao), told MindaNews via telephone they want to make it clear through the public assembly at the town’s Magsaysay Park that they support the creation of the Bangsamoro entity as provided in the peace agreement to be signed today in Malacanang.

“But we want the world to know that as we support the Bangsamoro entity for our Muslim brothers (and sisters), we only appeal for the exclusion of Wao from it,” she added.

Iniego said 83 percent of the town’s population are Christians.

She cited that they are the first town to submit in February a manifesto to President Benigno Aquino III, the Senate and House of Representatives, to DILG and to both the peace panels of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front expressing their sentiment for exclusion.

Lihok Wao, which describes itself as a civil society organization working towards environmental protection and social transformation, expected about 3000 to 5000 members and supporters in the assembly. Iniego described the gathering as a “peaceful” event.

Iniego refused to call the gathering as a “rally” for its subversive connotations and preferred to call it an “assembly”.  She also appealed to media not to misquote them as their intentions are for peace.

This is the same group, which in the 1990s barricaded streets to stop illegal logging.

In early 1999, Lihok Wao group has joined dialogues, negotiation-meetings, circulated position papers, and gathered signatures, among others, according to dbsst.org. In April 1999, then Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Antonio Cerilles, issued a Memorandum Order declaring a transport ban of all timber and timber products from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao ARMM), particularly in Wao. Lanao del Sur.

Despite the Memorandum Order, however, the Timber Industries of the Philippines (TIPI) continued to transport timber, mostly undersized to log ponds in Tagoloan and El Salvador in the province of Misamis Oriental.

This prompted members of the affected community to stage a human barricade at Brgy. Panang. Wao, Lanao del Sur on 14 June 1999. The barricade lasted for about four months.

Edna Espinosa, one of its staunchest leaders, still chairs the group, Iniego added.

Iniego denied that a social media account is its official account adding the owner of the account and those who react to it only express sentiments against the Bangsamoro entity.

“Disregard it. It’s not ours. We still have to open our account,” she added. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News.Net)