Good roads spur economic development, peace in Basilan PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 September 2015 10:52

Roderick Furigay, who is a Christian, and his longtime Yakan friend, Juni Ilimin, both cannot forget how their childhood was made difficult by the absence of all weather roads in Basilan.

Furigay and Ilimin, both in their early 50s, are now the incumbent vice mayor of Lamitan City and the local government undersecretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, respectively.

“Life was so difficult in those days. It was the height then of the uprising by the Moro National Liberation Front and besides the security problems spawned by the conflict, we also did not have good roads in the six Basilan municipalities at that time,” said Furigay.

Furigay is a scion of a big Christian clan in Lamitan City, the new capital of Basilan.

Basilan, a component province of ARMM, has just been encircled with a concrete circumferential road straddling through most of its now 11 municipalities.

The thoroughfare shortened by 17 hours an overland orbit of the island’s southern, northern, western and eastern corners.

The road project, now 98 percent done, was started about three years ago as a foreign assisted initiative, which the national government sustained and completed using state funds.

Ilimin, a Muslim, said what is more consoling for them is the on-going concreting of roads by the ARMM’s Department of Public Works and Highways, designed to link fishing and farming enclaves to the vaunted Basilan “ring road.”

“People from the coastal areas can easily bring their daily harvest of Marine products, such as deep-sea fishes and seashells to barangays along the circumferential road through these roads being built by the ARMM government,” Ilimin said.

Ilimin and Furigay both said they are grateful to ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and his public works secretary, Engineer Don Mustapha Loong, for their hands-on involvement in the implementation of the regional government’s current road projects in Basilan.

“My constituents are just as grateful to these two ARMM officials. It was only during the time of President Benigno Aquino III and Gov. Hataman that so much infrastructure investments have been poured into Basilan,” Furigay said.

Among the ARMM’s on-going flagship arterial infrastructure projects in Basilan are the 21.9-kilometer Lamitan City-Akbar-Mohammad Ajul road (P388.6 million), the 22-kilometer Tipo-Tipo-Albarka road (P356 million) and the 32-kilometer Lantawan-Isabela City road (P525 million).

Loong said the projects are being implemented in utmost transparency, in keeping with Hataman’s policy of accountability in handling the ARMM’s yearly infrastructure subsidy.

The three road projects will interconnect dozens of isolated barangays in the recipient towns and cities, according to Loong.

The recent interconnection of isolated barangays in Basilan as a result of the ARMM’s road projects have ushered in the reconciliation of many feuding clans that kept arsenals of high-powered firearms both as status symbol and as protection from adversaries.

Ilimin had facilitated, with the help of local officials and local commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the reconciliation of five feuding groups in the province in recent months.

Hataman, Col. Rolando Joselito Bautista of the Army’s 104th Brigade, Supt. Oscar Nantes of the Basilan provincial police, and senior MILF commanders had also brokered the settlement of six bloody clan wars in the island province in the past two months.

“There is no other recourse but forge peace now among them to enjoy the socio-economic dividends spurred by these road projects,” said Hadja Nuring Jamaldin, assistant division superintendent for Basilan public schools.

Like Furigay and Ilimin, Jamaldin, who is also a Yakan from Sumisip town, had experienced uneasy long travels to Basilan’s old capital, Isabela, now a chartered city, via bumpy roads that were almost impassable during rainy days.

“Now the travel time from Lamitan City, the capital of Basilan, to my hometown is only about 40 minutes, from what used to be three hours of travel in previous decades,” Jamaldin said.

Jamaldin said the ARMM road projects also gave children in far-flung areas easy access to public schools.

“All of these security problems in Basilan will be gone as a consequence of having good roads, good markets and more school buildings in the province. It is poverty and underdevelopment that creates security problems in far-flung areas here,” Jamaldin said.