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President Marcos eyes Basilan as food, fisheries production center

Roel Pareño, Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
President Marcos eyes Basilan as food, fisheries production center
President Marcos inspects a rifle as he joins Bangsamoro government officials in witnessing the destruction of surrendered firearms during a peace offering ceremony in Sumisip, Basilan yesterday.
Krizjohn Rosales

MANILA, Philippines — President Marcos wants to transform Basilan – a province once wracked by violence and terrorism – into a food and fisheries center of the country.

“Basilan’s new role is now the war against hunger. You have a land area twice the size of Singapore, blessed with a rich soil, above all more or less typhoon-free, which makes you an ideal bulwark in our fight for food security,” Marcos said during  a peace offering ceremony held at the Kasanyangan Monument in Sumisip town yesterday.

“When your agri-fisheries potentials are unlocked, the whole country, not only Basilan, not only BARMM (Bangsamoro Administrative Region in Muslim Mindanao) but the whole country will benefit,” the President said.

 “Your future and fate are therefore intertwined with the nation’s. Please be assured that we will play our role as partner of Basilan’s great leap forward,” he said.

Basilan is home to rubber plantations. Copra and rice are also the province’s major produce and farmers’ main source of income.

The President also vowed more assistance to rebels, including livelihood and housing, to convince more of them to return to the fold of the law.

During his visit to Basilan, Marcos also witnessed the ceremonial destruction of 400 illegal firearms and distributed eight motorcycles donated by the United Nations Development Program to support the livelihood of former members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, Abu Sayyaf Group, and civilian gun owners.

Marcos said the province and its partners have facilitated the surrender of more than 400 firearms in exchange for livelihood opportunities, the documentation of more than 4,000 high-powered and small weapons, and the processing of almost 200 license to own and possess firearms, all through the Small Arms and Light Weapons and Assistance for Security, Peace, Integration and Recovery for Advanced Human Security in BARMM program.

At the signal of the President and Basilan Gov. Hajiman Hataman-Salliman, a road roller crushed the loose firearms that were laid on the concrete road at the foot of the peace monument.

“We are still trying to bring those who are still fighters to come down from the mountains and to join society,” the President said in a media interview when asked if the illegal weapons destruction conducted in Basilan would be replicated in other parts of Mindanao.

“And we, for our part, will continue to support everything that they need in terms of housing, in terms of livelihood, in terms of schools, in terms of infrastructure. And that’s the role that we will play,” he said.

Marcos met with the governors of BARMM to formalize an alliance to ensure continuous support for the region.

The Chief Executive declared that Basilan, once tainted by violence and terrorism, is now a zone of peace “made possible not by military might but more so by people saying no to violence.”

Marcos described the destruction of firearms as a testament to the commitment of all stakeholders to peace.

“I’m the first President to be able to come here because this was ground zero in the time of the fighting. And so, it is a very clear landmark on the progress we have been making in bringing peace to the Southern Philippines,” he said.

Marcos cited an ongoing process under the auspices of the United Nations, the European Union and other international organizations to continue the decommissioning of weapons.

Marcos recognized the peace efforts of the provincial government of Basilan, Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity; Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police; as well as community, religious leaders and volunteers.

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