Peace makers take deserved bow

Basilan, a part of the Sulu Archipelago in the Southern Philippines, was long known as the place of origin and home to Abu Sayyaf’s top leaders

Peace and order are necessary to attain the goal of uplifting the lives of the people and stimulating development in the countryside.

Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. has an extensive experience with regard to the pursuit of lasting and principled peace in the country.

To empower communities, Ariel Hernandez and Galvez., who were then active peace workers at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, introduced ways forward to address issues on internal security in the Basilan Province.

Basilan, a part of the Sulu Archipelago in the Southern Philippines, was long known as the place of origin and home to Abu Sayyaf’s top leaders.

The ASG gained a stronghold of the province after mounting an attack against the AFP in April 2016, which killed 18 soldiers and injured more than 50 individuals, including civilians.

Prior to the attack, ASG has been exploiting insurgent violence, extremism, pervasive criminality, and constant feuding among clans.

In mid-2016, various forms of violence that once beset Basilan began to subside with the government’s whole-of-nation approach to addressing insurgency nationwide.

Galvez, Hernandez, along with former ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman and the then incumbent provincial head Jim Hataman, met to come up with an anti-extremist plan to neutralize the roots of conflicts in the province, dovetailing into the efforts to end the long-reigning lawlessness of the terrorist Abu Sayaff Group.

The plan involved the declaration of an all-out war with close coordination and cooperation with the Armed Forces of the Philippines against the ASG rebels.

Hernandez, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Tribune, shared that the provincial government’s anti-extremist campaign in Basilan became successful, with ASG members gradually returning to the folds of the law.

Terror deterrent

It was followed by the implementation of Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism program, wherein former rebels were given a chance to have a fresh start.

Later in 2019, the provincial government partnered with the non-government organization, Balay Mindanaw Foundation Inc., to launch the Advancing and Sustaining Good Governance and Community Action towards Resilience and Empowerment or the AS2G CARE program, which aims to assist rebel returnees to integrate with their communities.

Under the program, the Basilan Farmers Exposure initiative aims to teach returnees farming techniques as a source of livelihood.

The Basilan government and its people are now reaping the gains of continuing progress in the province’s peace and security situation as it recently won the 2022 Galing Pook Awards.

The AS2G CARE was named one of the Top 10 Outstanding Local Governance Programs in the Philippines, with the Basilan province included among the 18 local government units finalists out of 196 contenders.

Hernandez, a senior consultant of the AS2G CARE program, feted the province’s other significant achievement in its efforts for peace and security.

“We want to fully sustain the gains of peace and security efforts in the region. We are now ready to implement programs that will further boost the economic development of Basilan,” Hernandez, who shepherds the successful implementation of the program, said.

Peace means progress

With the absence of conflicts and threats, Hernandez said the residents can now focus on uplifting their livelihoods through agriculture and aquaculture development.

Hataman Salliman with his wife, Anisalam Datumanong Salliman, together with Hernandez, AS2G CARE Project Manager Richard Rejas, and other key individuals for the program received the Basilan’s Galing Pook Awards on 22 November 2022 before President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. at the Malacañang Palace.

Recently, the 10 Galing Pook Awardees, including representatives from Basilan, witnessed the Senate’s adoption of the Annual Galing Pook Awards last 1 March at the Senate of the Philippines, Pasay City.

Senators unanimously commended the 10 local government awardees, including Alcala, Cagayan; Province of Basilan; Province of Bataan; Biñan, Laguna; Barangay Cayabu, Tanay, Rizal; Goa, Camarines Sur; Iloilo; Itbayat, Batanes; Libertad, Antique; and Piddig, Ilocos Norte, for their excellence and relentless “commitment to good governance and stellar leadership practices.”

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