KISSAH AND DAWAT: Western Basilan Alliance?

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ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 28 March) – In an earlier article “The Birth of the Inter-LGU Alliance in Basilan”, we tackled the underlying motivation and emerging idea of interlocal cooperation among local government units in the insular province.

While the province has made more headlines about the notoriety of a small group whose violent ideology justifies horrific kidnapping, extortion and slaughter of civilians, it has more to offer and be known for. It is a major player and pioneer in the rubber industry in the country. While its coconuts are now largely affected by ‘cocolisap’ infestation, it is still second to rubber as source of land-based livelihood for its residents. It has some of the best beaches, islands, waterfalls and similar natural attractions in the country and their tourism efforts are geared not just towards ecotourism, but culture-based ecotourism, highlighted through their annual festivals, as if telling the world that the best is yet to come for the province.

Since assuming the provincial leadership, Governor Jim Hataman has made a clear position to stop foreign and local large fishing vessels from encroaching into the provincial waters. This, he and his mayors, have made clear in their first meeting with the president. Since then, the local fishers have reported increasing catch and the trading of fresh fishes have received a tremendous boost with buyers all the way from Mindanao and the Visayan cities.

The five municipalities – Hadji Muhtamad, Lantawan, Maluso, Sumisip and Tabuan Lasa – sit on the Western seaboard of the province. These municipalities share “common bases”. They share boundaries, coasts and waters. There is an existing trading network centered around Maluso. The town of Maluso also attracts traders and consumers from as far as Tongkil in Sulu.  These Western municipalities share a unique diversity, i.e. multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious communities and social cohesion are part of daily life. Importantly, this side of the province is relatively free from violent groups.

Despite of this unique diversity, they envision the alliance as an expression of shared values. One is consultation or shura, as they believe in broader participation and ownership as a foundation to good governance. They have realized the importance of stewardship or khilafah, meaning leadership that serves and delivers. They embrace their diversity as expression of pluralism or ta’adudiyyah, inclusive yet different. And finally, to add spirituality to what is otherwise mundane, are compassion (rahmah) and justice (adalah), meaning, united by love of God and neighbors, being fair and equitable.

They share and express their common vision as follows, “Peaceful and prosperous Western Basilan founded on good governance and sustainable economy.” To achieve this vision, the goal of the alliance is to be the platform for consultation and development of mutual concerns and benefits. While the alliance is primarily horizontal, i.e. among the five municipalities; it is also vertical, maximizing cooperation and alignment with the provincial, regional and national agencies.

There are six focus areas – agriculture, fisheries, good governance, peace and security, critical services and ecotourism. The consultations have yielded a lot of ideas from stakeholders to inform and firm up their strategies and plans.

The alliance champions understand the task at hand is difficult. Still, they believe it is time for the Basilan municipalities to dream big. They are hopeful that the beginning of the alliance comes with the end of individualism that has made the province vulnerable to violence, exploitation and underdevelopment.

To know more about the Western Basilan Alliance and the AECID-funded project support capacitating the alliance, please feel free to visit the WBA website at http://westernbasilan.blogspot.com/

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