Basilan soldiers focus on “total humanitarian assault”

Sabban said the military here is now actively involved in humanitarian exercises to do away with the stereotype of the military as merely a warfare actor,.

“We have been conducting several development projects in different towns of this province.  Eighty per cent of our activities here is focused on the humanitarian operations and only the remaining 20% is for combat operations,” he told the crowd of some 500 people, mostly youth, during the peace forum held over the weekend at the Claret College of Isabela here.

Sabban said this is one of the most effective ways to combat lawlessness in the province.

“Because if we can deliver enough basic social services to the people, there is no reason for them to engage in unwanted and illegal activities,” he said referring to the activities of the Abu Sayyaf group, a homegrown rebel group that has made rhthe image of the island as the most dangerous place to live in.

Basilan has been in the limelight since the Abu Sayyaf engaged in different illegal and criminal activities like kidnapping, distortion and murder. Abu Sayyaf usually targeted foreigners and non-Muslim civilians as their victims.

Experts blamed the poor access to government’s social services and lack of education among the people in this island that drove them to join these illegal activities.
Sabban said with these new strategies they are now undertaking, the are optimistic to more peaceful and progressive Basilan.

“The responses from the community have always been very positive. They are very supportive and they really cooperate in this activity,” he told Mindanews.

Bishop Martin Jumoad of the Prelature of Isabela City, organizer of the forum, said the gathering is purposely conducted to inform the people of Basilan especially the youth “to let them see the other side of the military.”

“We want them also to realize that the military is not only for warfare, they are also effective as our peace officers,” he said, referring to this year’s MWOP theme, “Building Bridges of Peace with our Peace Officers.”

“We want to assure you that military forces only recourse to use guns as our last options. We still see the provisions of basic services as the most effective tools in building peace,” Sabban said.

“And we want to inform you that in Basilan, your Armed forces have been engineers constructing your roads, carpenters building your classrooms, teachers in places where teachers are not available and we will be most happy to perform and remain at your service,” he said.

He also noted that for the past weeks, thepeace and order situation in the province has stabilized.

According to Sr. Lydia Sumampong, coordinator of this year’s celebration, other activities calendared for this province included the walk for peace, skydiving exhibition by the Marines, sports for peace, peace and ecological concert, and battle of the bands.  (Nung Aljani/MindaNews)