ARMM gov't pushes for 'peace zones' via infra projects
John Unson (Philstar.com) - December 7, 2015 - 11:56pm

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - The government is rebuilding into “peace zones” former bastions of extremists groups by concreting farm-to-market roads for rebellious peasants to realize that economic activities are the best antidotes to the innate poverty they so detest.

Even local forces of the ideologically distinct Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which have separate peace compacts with Malacañang, are now helping protect road projects in former bastions of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao province, aware it will benefit all sectors.

Among the road projects being implemented now by the Department of Public Works and Highways of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DPWH-ARMM) in areas rocked by military-BIFF hostilities early this year is a vital P20 million worth farm-to-market artery linking the Nabundas and Datu Kilay Districts in Saidona town in the second district of Maguindanao.

The road, now being concreted by DPWH-ARMM via the office of engineer James Mlok, chief of Maguindanao’s 2nd District Engineering Office, straddles through oft-flooded spots, impassable during rainy days.

Mlok and ARMM’s regional public works secretary, engineer Don Mustapha Loong, are both optimistic the ongoing concreting of the Nabundas-Datu Kilay road can be completed as scheduled owing to the cooperation of local folks and MILF forces in the area in securing construction workers.

Despite the potentials of the agricultural lands traversed by the road, local peasant families remain impoverished owing to the nagging domestic security problems and the absence of arterial linkages needed to hasten their delivery of farm products to markets in towns nearby.

Among the local MILF leaders helping secure the costly infrastructure projects of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman in Saidona and nearby Datu Piang, Datu Saudi, Mamasapano, Salibo and Mamasapano towns, all in the second district of Maguindanao is cleric Wahid Tundok.

The BIFF once had enclaves in the six towns, where costly infrastructure projects are now being implemented by the Hataman administration in support of the normalization agenda of the ongoing peace overture of President Benigno Aquino III with the MILF.

In Maguindanao’s oldest town, Datu Piang, local members of the MNLF have periodically been displaying force along strategic sections of two roads being concreted by the ARMM government, the Poblacion and Ligawasan roads, to help the police and military ward off saboteurs.

Lekieh Angas, a senior MNLF leader in Datu Piang, said they want the concreting of the two thoroughfares, interconnecting Moro villages to the municipal center, to proceed unhampered by security issues.

The Hataman administration has allocated P180.8 million for the concreting of the Datu Piang Poblacion and Ligawasan roads, drawn from the ARMM’s 2015 infrastructure budget.

“This road concreting thrusts will benefit all people in our municipality. In reciprocation, we will help protect it from people with bad intentions,” Angas said.

He said the road projects will help address poverty and the feeling of neglect among Moro communities, the two most pressing factors that condone rebellion.

ACIRC BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS DATU DATU PIANG DATU PIANG POBLACION AND LIGAWASAN DATU SAUDI DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS OF THE AUTONOMOUS REGION DISTRICT ENGINEERING OFFICE DON MUSTAPHA LOONG HATAMAN MAGUINDANAO
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