ARMM pours P600M for infra, livelihood projects in Basilan’s former battleground
AL-BARKA, Basilan, Philippines — The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is pouring P600 million to this town where more than 250 government soldiers have died in attacks by and encounters with Abu Sayyaf bandits.
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said Al-Barka, the most dreaded town in Basilan, has become the recipient of a P600-million investment that would include road projects, ports, water systems and livelihood grants.
A huge chunk of the budget will go to road concreting projects amounting to P400 million.
“We will ensure that all roads are connected, including exit roads from Al-Barka to Tipo-Tipo and from Al-Barka to Lamitan and all the main highways leading to Cambug village where top leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are maintaining their areas,” Hataman said.
The rest of the funds will be spent on the construction of ports, water systems and livelihood programs.
Hadja Suada Asnawi, wife of Dan Asnawi, the commander of 114th Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces of the MILF in Basilan, said that, to develop, Basilan should have “working structures for health, water and education.”
“Our children have to travel down Lamitan for education. Our people have to go far to fetch water in Tipo-Tipo, and we don’t have health facilities,” she said.
Hadija Hassan, a resident of Ginanta village, called for efforts to open job opportunities in the province and livelihood projects.
“Once everyone is with steady earning, they will never join the Abu Sayyaf Group. But how can we find work here? Who will invest here if bandits keep harassing the people?” Hassan asked.
Hataman said it was the first time that Al-Barka got a huge funding.
Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez, deputy commander of the Western Mindanao Command and head of the military’s coordination committee on the cessation of hostilities, said government has suffered big setbacks in Al-Barka.
Since 1997 to end of 2012, there were more than 256 soldiers killed and 560 wounded,” he said, referring to casualties suffered by the government in fighting the Abu Sayyaf.
Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said the construction of highways linking Al-Barka to other towns would be the “concrete path to peace and better lives for the people.”
Guerrero, a former brigade commander based in Basilan, admitted “we have seen that the violent path is not a solution, military solution is not a solution, so we must exploit the opportunity of a peaceful option.”
In January 2013, Galvez, a former 104th Brigade commander, initiated talks with Asnawi that paved the way to strengthening ties between the Basilan-based military and the MILF.
Asnawi failed to join the consultation held last January 11, but he sent his deputy commander Hud Limaya and his wife Suada.
Asnawi’s wife said since the 2013 meeting, life in Al-Barka has become peaceful.
“The construction of the highway and the good relationship between the military and the MILF really helped a lot,” she said.
Hataman said P3 million was allocated for the construction of a town hall in Barangay (village) Magkawa.
The location of the soon-to-rise town hall is strategic as it is “closer to the people and just along the main highway,” according to Al-Barka mayor Darussalam Lajid.
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