By Hanah Tabios
In hopes to strengthen local autonomy in Mindanao, an inter-local alliance among five remote coastal towns in the western part of Basilan province was launched on Monday in pursuit of peace and development.
Western Basilan Alliance (WBA) was the brainchild of the mayors of the municipalities of Lantawan, Hadji Muhtamad, Maluso, Sumisip, and Tabuan Lasa—a first in the entire autonomous Moro regional government.
“The vision of this alliance is for a prosperous and a peaceful Western Basilan in particular and the entire province in general”, Hanie Bud, mayor of the fourth class municipality of Maluso in Basilan province told the Manila Bulletin in an interview at Dusit Thani Manila, Makati City.
Bud said the initiative began in 2016 where WBA was formed with a vision of creating a platform for consultation in areas of mutual concern and benefits such as fisheries, agriculture, peace and security, good governance, education, health, and eco-tourism.
“We thought of an inter-local cooperation between and among ourselves to talk about common development initiatives [which] focuses mainly on some concerns and issues affecting the province. And then of course, this is supported by the provincial government and BARMM government,” he added.
In a message, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Interim Chief Minister Al Haj Murad Ebrabim lauded the efforts of the local government units and hopes to replicate WBA’s blueprint in the future in other parts of BARMM.
“What we are seeing today is a manifestation of such efforts. The idea to bring different municipalities to show vibrant cooperation is somehow similar to what we are doing with the different provinces in the Bangsamoro,” he said.
Ebrahim said the success of WBA will definitely help the entire region in formulating similar formats of cooperation.
Similarly, both DILG secretary Eduardo Año and Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chief Manny Piñol expressed their support to WBA, citing that the alliance will ensure the development of the province in changing everybody’s perspective about the province.
To note, Bud said contrary to the negative image about Basilan which is commonly associated to cases of violent extremism, the province, primarily the areas in the western portion, offers untouched beaches, waterfalls, heritage sites, among others.
The coastal town Maluso, for a fact, is one of the top fish producing municipalities in the whole province.
“We catch fish at an average of more than 300,000 tons in a year, so roughly more than 3,000 metric tons in a day. We actually transport this catch fish to some key cities in Mindanao, to include in the Visayas like Cebu, Negros, and Iloilo,” Bud said.
Meanwhile, the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation through the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines pledged that the agency will continue supporting the second phase of the implementation of the project which is done in partnership with the provincial government led by Basilan governor Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman and Cotabato-based policy think tank Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG).