President Duterte visits Basilan, vows to help in its development

ISABELA CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte arrived here on Thursday, encouraging the people of Basilan to shun hatred and help his administration in developing the island province by working on a consensus on how to move forward.

In his speech at Camp Luis Biel III, the President said the government and Moro rebels can’t fight forever as he renewed his commitment to the Moro people, noting he “will give that they want.”

PRRD encouraged the local residents not to add hatred to the already tense situation there that have claimed too many lives. He vowed to find money for the development of Basilan.

The President is pushing for a federal form of government to once and for all solve the Moro rebellion as well other forms of insurgency in the Philippines.

During a discussion with Basilan’s local officials, President Duterte said he is working to stop corruption in government to raise money. He said that if the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) can collect the right taxes and duties, he could have funds to develop Basilan. The BIR lost P300 million a day due to corruption and the BOC P200 million daily, he said.

Lamenting that he lost four relatives as a result of the Mindanao war, the President said there is restiveness and rebellion in the region because the Moro people felt that they are being left behind. To address rebellion and violence, there must be livelihood for the people, and the government should extend the basic needs of poor communities, PRRD said.

Another concern is the Abu Sayyaf Group, of which he expressed willingness to talk to them. Basilan’s local officials said new members of the bandit group now come from Malaysia, Zamboanga Sibugay, and Sulu, which is a rising concern for the government.

They also reported cocolisap infestation in the province that should be immediately addressed. They said they already declared a state of calamity because of the infestation, which has affected 30 to 40 percent of coconut trees in the province. More than 3,000 families have already received assistance from the government.

As a response, the President invited the Basilan LGU officials to have a consensus so they could identity problems confronting the province. He said they could have more meetings in the future, possibly in Malacanan.

To address the needs of the residents displaced by the fighting in Al Barka, Tipo-Tipo and Ungkaya Pukan, he said he will instruct the DSWD to immediately send assistance there. Regarding Basilan’s coconut sector, he promised to help the industry there and one of the possible sources of money is the coco levy fund, which was declared public by the Supreme Court.

The President said that once a legal mechanism is available, he can release money for the rehabilitation of the Basilan coconut industry.

Aside from meeting Basilan’s local officials and residents, the President also had a security meeting with the military officials of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom). PRRD also led the ceremonial distribution of relief goods to the people affected by the violence in the province. (PND)