CORRECTED - Protests rock Colombia oil, coal areas; exports OK
(Corrects day of the week in first paragraph)
* Plan to share royalties with other regions fuels anger
* Barricades block roads in oil, coal provinces
By Anthony Boadle
BOGOTA, May 26 (Reuters) - Thousands of demonstrators blocked highways in Colombia's main oil and coal producing provinces on Thursday to protest legislation that would share royalty income more evenly with other regions of the country.
Protesters stopped traffic with barricades of branches and stones across roads. "Don't take our royalties away," said a sign carried by one demonstrator in Arauca province.
The protests have not immediately affected oil and coal production or exports, an energy spokesman, and coal and oil industry sources said.
Colombian police said there were protests in the main coal-producing provinces of Cesar and Guajira, and Meta, Casanare and Arauca, which produce the bulk of Colombia's oil, as well as other districts.
Colombia's Congress is debating a government proposal that would change the management of oil and mining royalties, a key fiscal reform in President Juan Manuel Santos drive to make the Andean country more attractive to foreign investors.
The proposal sent to Congress soon after Santos took office last August would centralize how royalties are managed to more evenly distribute around $3 billion a year nationwide and stamp out local corruption.
While Santos has a wide majority in Congress, the royalties bill has faced opposition from officials in petroleum-producing areas who say it dilutes their authority.
Santos is under the gun to push through a raft of reforms before mid-June when Congress breaks. If the bills are not passed by then, they will have to be resubmitted and go through the lengthy debate process.
Once dismissed as a failing state mired in drug violence and guerrilla war, Colombia is enjoying a flood of foreign investment in its petroleum and mining sectors.
The Andean nation is now the world's No. 5 coal producer and Latin America's No. 4 oil producer, with current crude output at around 783,000 barrels per day and forecast to reach 1.5 million bpd over the next few years.
In March, Colombia regained its coveted investment grade credit from Standard & Poor's rating agency which cited the economy's growing resilience and favorable prospects.
Colombia lost its investment grade during a 1990s fiscal crisis and the S&P upgrade helps it attract new investors and lower its borrowing costs. (Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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