Tuesday Jul, 07 2020 04:34:49 PM

Year 2019 brought Basilan good tidings

GOVERNANCE/POLITICS • 06:30 AM Sun Jan 5, 2020
John M. Unson
The government center of Lamitan City, capital of Basilan. (Contributed)

COTABATO CITY --- Residents of Basilan will remember 2019 as the year the 11 towns and two cities in the island province together became the Bangsamoro region’s new investment frontier.

A transnational firm, the Davao-based Unifruitti Group, and its local partners agreed in 2019 to establish a 1,000-hectare Cavendish banana plantation in Lamitan City, capital of Basilan.

To take off this year, the venture, supported by Lamitan City Mayor Rose Furigay, Basilan Gov. Jim Salliman and Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman, will initially employ no fewer than a thousand local laborers, according to officials of the Regional Board of Investments-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Hataman is the lone congressional representative of Basilan, one of the five provinces inside the core territory of BARMM.

Besides the 1,000-hectare banana farm in Lamitan City, the Unifruitti Group and its local counterparts are also keen on putting up this year another plantation just as large in Basilan’s Lantawan town, a former bastion of the Abu Sayyaf.

It was in 2019 when the provincial government of Basilan got another Seal of Good Local Governance, or SGLG, from the office of Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, its second in just two years.

Lamitan City, which has more than 40 barangays, received an SGLG in 2016, in 2017, in 2018 and in 2019.

The yearly grant of an SGLG to LGUs is based on governance efficiency and involvement of local officials in domestic humanitarian, peace and security programs.

Basilan’s Sumisip and Maluso towns also each received three SGLGs in the past three years.

The provincial government launched last December a first ever P20 million ice plant project in Maluso, the fishing capital of Basilan, to boost the marketability, via proper refrigeration processes, of daily catch surplus from the territorial seas of the province to markets in the Zamboanga peninsula.

Muslim and Christian residents in Basilan are not accustomed to eating fishes preserved in ice owing to the abundance of supply that entrepreneurs process into dried fishes if not sold in the local markets.

The construction of the first ever P20 million ice plant facility in Maluso is a joint project of the office of Basilan’s governor and the mayor of the municipality, the now second-termer Hanie Bud.


Business groups in Basilan are optimistic of more improvements in the investment climate in potential economic hubs, particularly Isabela City, with two neophyte but idealist officials, Mayor Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman and Vice Mayor Kifli Salliman, now at the helm of the city government.

Turabin-Hataman and Salliman, both elected to office only last May 2019, have jointly brokered via diplomatic maneuvers the now markedly visible interfaith solidarity among Isabela City’s Muslim and Christian communities that for years were divided by religious and political differences.

Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of WestMinCom, said Saturday what ushered in the dramatic improvements in the security situation in Basilan is the common peace initiative of local leaders dubbed Program Against Violent Extremism, or PAVE.

The PAVE, being administered by the provincial government and the office of the congressional representative in the province, have secured the surrender in the past three years of more than 200 Abu Sayyaf members in Basilan.

The now reforming former Abu Sayyaf gunmen are presently being reintroduced to mainstream society via inter-agency rehabilitation programs meant to turn them into productive unarmed residents as they thrive in peace in their respective hometowns.

Many of them were toured around the country in 2019 in educational trips facilitated by provincial officials and the WestMinCom for them to understand the need for peace for Basilan to fully rise from underdevelopment due to armed conflicts.

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