Regional Bantay Bayanihan Goes to Basilan

PEACE and order in the conflict-prone province of Basilan may expect some relief soon with the implementation there of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

IPSP was launched in the province last March 5 by its multi-sectoral, civil society-led Bantay Bayanihan.

Bantay Bayanihan is a convergence of civil society organizations (CSOs) and academe whose primary role is to act as the oversight monitoring body of the IPSP being implementated in community areas.

IPSP was created last 2011 as a program of the AFP to shift their operation from combat to peace and development initiatives as a medium to win the peace in troubled areas in the country.

In a simple program held at the Capitol Auditorium, Isabela City, Dr. Grace J. Rebollos, the Regional Convener of the Bantay Bayanihan, stressed the crucial role of the CSO-military partnership.

“Civil society organization is holding hands with the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ IPSP to ensure the paradigm shift from conflict to development,” she said before the crowd of government employees, religious leaders, CSOs and security personnel.

Dr. Rebollos said that Bantay Bayanihan initiates peace forums through which it provides an avenue to the stakeholders to talk about IPSP’s status and developments in their areas.

Dr. Rebollos is the Vice-President of Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), a member of the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA).

ZABIDA is a consortium doing peace and development through peace advocacy, interreligious dialogue, low-cost housing to marginalized sectors, potable water system in the far-flung villages, financial services and sustainable and organic agriculture.

Basilan has been plagued for decades by armed conflict and lawlessness. The island is a lair of banditry and several lawless elements. However, the island province is gifted with a beauty of nature, many of its beaches are made of white fine sand, and marine products are likewise abundant here but because of many cases of abductions and terrorism acts, neighboring cities and provinces even foreign visitors are discouraged to go to Basilan.

“We are thanking the IPSP and the Bantay Bayanihan for looking for a solution to end the problems of Basilan,” Tahira Sansawi, the Provincial Administrator, said.

Col. Carlito Galvez Jr, Brigade Commander of the 104th Battalion based in Isabela City, briefed the participants on the accomplishments of the security forces in connection to the IPSP program. “We had conducted a series of meetings with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the three municipalities of the province, namely, Al Barka, Tipo-Tipo and Sumisip,” he revealed.

He added that they also helped alleviate the lives of the people in the province through their support for community development projects of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMMM).

The ARMM-AFP convergence had rehabilitated 37 houses in the Tabuan Lasa island municipality and constructed 30 houses, a school building and a multipurpose building in Lantawan as part of the Gawad Kalinga program.

Modyr Tupay, President of the Basilan NGO based Basilan Advocates for Peace, Environment and Sustainable Development Association (BAPESDA) and co-convenor of the Bantay Bayanihan in the province, told PAZ-Media that “after the launching we will also launch the localized concepts of the IPSP.”

“Since our setting here is different from the settings in the other parts of the country, we will focus more on the peace and development efforts,” Tupay said.

The Executive Director of Nagdilaab Foundation, Inc. (NFI) Miriam Suacito, has called on local residents to be part of the peace initiatives.

NFI is also a co-convenor of the Bantay Bayanihan in Basilan and a member consortium of ZABIDA.

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