Monday Sep, 23 2019 09:16:57 PM

Westmincom chief asks village leaders to lead in sustained peace, dev’t campaign

Mindanao Peace Process • 09:45 AM Wed Aug 21, 2019
Edwin O. Fernandez
Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana meets with officials and religious leaders of Mapun, Tawi-Tawi.(Photos courtesy of Fr. Romy Saniel, OMI)

BONGAO, Tawi-Tawi – Military officials in Western Mindanao and in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have asked local leaders to take the lead in the drive for sustainable peace and development in their communities.

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, chief of Western Mindanao Command, on Sunday flew to Mapun, an island municipality in the Sulu Sea and situated on the south-western extreme of the Philippines. It is located very close to Sabah, Malaysia (6 hours by boat).

Monsignor Romeo Saniel, OMI, Vicariate of Jolo administrator and Fr. Renan Aban, OMI, director of Notre Dame of Mampun and parish priest, along with municipal and provincial officials.

In a meeting between Sobejana and local leaders, the Westmincom chief urged local leaders to lead in ensuring that IS linked terrorist groups would not set foot in the island town of about 25,900 inhabitants.

“The strength of our nation is as good as its weakest barangays. Do not think that you are just barangay captains, you are nothing in the government structure,” Sobejana told 15 village chairpersons who were in attendance.

“You have an enormous role in the security campaign, and you must strive to implement what good plans you have for the common good,” the Westmincom chief added.

Sobejana stressed that internal security begins with society’s smallest unit, thus, protected barangays can prevent the infiltration of lawless elements.

The WestMinCom commander further urged local officials to set a good example, as the local government and the security sector work for peaceful and economically developed communities.

Charles Lao, officer-in-charge of the Office of the Mayor of Mapun, said it was the first time for the WestMinCom leadership to talk with local officials and the community.

“We are very much honored to have Lt. Gen. Sobejana and his staff. We want to extend our heartfelt and profound gratitude to you for sharing with us your wisdom and for addressing all our concerns despite our location,” added Lao.

During the dialogue, Monsignor Saniel shared the experience in securing Jolo following the January cathedral bomb attack.

Saniel urged Mapun local leaders to work with the military in ensuring peace and development in communities and to protect them from external threat, emphasizing the town is vulnerable to Abu Sayyaf infiltration.

Sobejana stressed that village leaders must be empowered so they can effectively protect their constituents.

He said the Westmincom is pushing for “PEACE” which is an acronym for “Peace for Empowerment in Addressing Challenging Environment.”

“Hence, the formula is Peace and security supported by good governance. This is all done through patriotic responses,” Sebejana said.

“The military is not above you nor below you. We walk beside you as partners in lasting peace and development,” he said.

Mayor Charles Lao, Vice Mayor Hamerin Ilani, ABC chairman Julian Lim were one in recognizing Sobejana’s peace efforts.

“This visit is very symbolic and very historic for the people of Mapun. We are forever grateful,” Lao said.

Monsignor Saniel, in a statement, the multi-sectoral and other stakeholders recommended the deployment of a Naval boat at the port of Mapun to help fight illegal fishing and the concreting of Mapun airstrip.

Saniel said the 50-year-old or so air strip has not been getting improvement for so long.

The stakeholders also recommended the improvement of communication and information system between barangay leaders, police and military.

They also recommended the improvement of economic activities in town, including the putting up of banks such as DBP and Land Bank.

Monsignor Saniel said the local leaders also sought the help of Sobejana, at least his intervention or recommendation to “higher ups,” on the improvement of health services by putting up of functional operating rooms, dialysis centers and regular visit of Medical specialists to the town’s hospital.

“This is an urgent need since emergency plane transportation fee from Mapun to Zamboanga is at P75,000. Those who can’t afford (the plane cost) just die in the hospitals here,” Monsignor Saniel said. (Edwin O. Fernandez)

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