Business blocs glad with Marcos' Basilan visit

John Unson - Philstar.com
Business blocs glad with Marcos' Basilan visit
The 550 firearms collected by local executives, Army and police officials in Basilan in recent months were destroyed using a road roller on Saturday, in the presence of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Philstar.com / John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — The business sector in the Bangsamoro region was elated with the destruction before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in a former Abu Sayyaf bastion in Basilan on Saturday of 550 unlicensed firearms collected in recent months to hasten economic progress in the province.

Marcos was the guest of honor in the symbolic event in Barangay Mahatallang in the hinterland Sumisip town that highlighted the feats of a provincial anti-loose firearms campaign, the Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Management Program, something first in the Bangsamoro region covering six southern provinces and three cities.

“That was something so good for our efforts to entice investors from other regions in the country and from abroad to come to Basilan. That showed that peace, indeed, is spreading around Basilan now," Mohammad Omar Pasigan, chairman of the Bangsamoro Board of Investments, or BBOI, told reporters here on Sunday.

Marcos was accompanied in his engagement in Sumisip on Saturday by Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Carlito Galvez Jr., Special Assistant to the President Ernesto Lagdemeo, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and senior officials of the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police.

Teodoro and Galvez are both staunch supporters of the SALW  campaign that the office of Basilan Gov. Hadjiman Hataman Salliman, Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon of the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade, the Basilan Provincial Police Office and the League of Mayors in the province launched last year.

“The destruction of hundreds of unlicensed firearms in a former stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, in the presence of President Marcos, is a good development, something so inspiring for us,” Clarito San Juan, a senior member of the Lamitan City Business Chamber in Basilan, said.

A number of barangays in Basilan, including strategic highlands in its Sampinit Complex, were once strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf, now called “peace zones,”after the surrender in batches of more than 400 of its members since 2016, now thriving peacefully as farmers and fishermen.

The SALW program of Salliman’s office is relying on backchannel dialogues to convince Basilan residents to turn in their their firearms and let the military, police and state militia forces guard their villages solely.

Marcos sounded optimistic of an economic boom in Basilan.

“When your agri-fisheries potentials are unlocked, the whole country, not only Basilan, not only BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) but the whole country will benefit,” Marcos said in a message during Saturday’s event at a peace monument in Mahatallang, apparently referring to the economic potentials of the province.

The Ministry of Investment, Trade and Tourism-BARMM, the BBOI, and the Bangsamoro Business Club have been cooperating since 2023 in enticing investors from outside to venture into viable agriculture, fishery and industrial projects in the province, covering 11 towns and two cities, Lamitan and Isabela.

“The visit on Saturday of President Marcos to Basilan to witness the decommissioning of hundreds of loose firearms collected by local executives, the 101st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army and the provincial police can catalyze an impression that it is safe now to put up big businesses in the province,” BBC’s president, the lawyer-entrepreneur Ronald Hallid Torres, said.

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