Sunday, January 8, 2017

Army hopes peace in NIR to last long

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 9): Army hopes peace in NIR to last long

The Army's 303 rd Infantry Brigade is storming the heavens with prayers that the peaceful atmosphere in Negros Island Region, brought about by the unilateral ceasefire being observed by the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front, will continue to reign and last long.

Col. Francisco Delfin, 303 rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said they have not monitored any insurgency-related incident in Negros countrysides, since the unilateral ceasefire took effect four months ago.

The unilateral ceasefire is now being enjoyed by Negrenses, much more by the families of government troopers and NPA rebels, who no longer worry that they will clash with each other, and cause injuries or worse, the loss of lives.

“We have not monitored any violation, so far,” Delfin, who supervises two Army battalions operating in Negros, said.

With military operations suspended, he said, peace and development activities have been given more focus.

“All of us feel what is peace and its positive impact, and feeling good that no life has been lost,” Delfin said.

Both the Army soldiers and the NPA were able to spend “quality time” with their respective families during the yuletide season celebrations, Delfin said.

But he said their vigilance has not been lowered despite the ceasefire.

The military claims that the NPA in Negros has about 200 armed members, an allegation disputed by Juanito Magbanua of the NPA Regional Operational Command, during a clandestine interview with selected local media in central Negros.

The NDF-Negros also expressed its support to the ongoing peace talks between the government and the NDF.

Editorial: Leave them alone

Editorial from the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 9): Editorial: Leave them alone

DAVAO Oriental is one in condemning the killing of Likid Copertino Banugan, the Mandaya tribal leader brutally murdered by the New People's Army, which have long been trying to enter the ancestral domain of Banugan's people in Barangay Pichon, Caraga, Davao Oriental, but have been thwarted because of Banugan's leadership.

Regarded for his strong rule over the areas covered by the certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT-01) and in insisting that his people carry with them the culture and ways of the Mandaya, Banugan personifies the characters of a datu as they were before.

To the NPA, he was the enemy, the land grabber, and the dictator.

To his people, he was the one who pushed them to celebrate their being Mandaya, putting up the annual festival in sitio Sangab and the cultural village there, successfully bringing back what was almost forgotten 18 years ago.

He also made sure that the ancestral domain is not sold to anyone and remains a communal property of the tribe, with recognition of who among the tribesfolk have rightful occupancy of a plot.

He set up the tribe's cultural village where they still weave and make their attires and cloths and their baylans are sought out to bless whatever endeavor the community starts on.

His death, along with his brother Ramon and nephew Benny, outside his house in Caraga Poblacion was an overkill.

Not only peppered with bullets from high-powered firearms, an M203 grenade was said to have been exploded at the three as well.

The brutality of the death illustrates the long-held anger the NPA has had on Banugan, the very foundation by which his people of the Mandaya tribe respect him.

Banugan's fate underscores what the indigenous peoples have long been trying to explain to those who are trying to talk peace with the communist rebels and the Moro rebels.

The fact that the IPs are held hostage by these forces, and yet, are not given a voice and a say. Especially with regards communist rebels, which put up bases in IP areas, the IPs cannot even raise their voices against them since the rebels are armed, they are not.

When they seek government help for protection, they are called spies and are killed, just like Banugan and many before him. When they arm themselves, they are called warlords and are killed, just like Banugan and many before him. When they align with the rebels, then the government forces kill them.

Banugan's death should be the last straw. The government by this time, should understand that the IPs are not just observers, but are the one who suffer the brunt of the conflict. They are forever hostaged by the conflicts and their development is stunted forever. Why is that?

Whenever they find partners to help them develop, their partners are harassed and their leaders are killed. When they develop themselves, they are subject to militarization from both sides.

Here's to hoping that Peace Process Secretary Jesus G. Dureza, who has been going around consulting with IPs, fully comprehend what is happening and once and for all declare all IP communities as zones of peace where they are allowed to rule their people based on their own culture and norms, without the interference and constant agitation by the communist and the militarization of the government.

Foreigner killed with ISIS supporter in Sarangani buried – police

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 8): Foreigner killed with ISIS supporter in Sarangani buried – police

Map of Sarangani province (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)
Map of Sarangani province (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)
The foreigner who was killed by government security forces during an operation against terror suspects on Saturday was buried in a remote village of Maasim, Sarangani.

Senior Inspector Canieso Wanigon Golwingon, town police commander, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the slain foreigner, Abu Naila, was a bomb expert of local terror group Ansar Al-Khilafah.

Also killed was his wife identified as Kadija.

Golwingon said the three arrested companions of the slain Jaafar Sabewang Maguid, also known as “Tokboy,” leader of the Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines, confirmed that Naila was a bomb-making instructor.

Golwingon said Maguid’s men told them they only knew him as Abu Naila and his nationality remained unknown as of Sunday(Jan. 8).

“We turned over their remains of village officials and they were buried already,” Golwingon said.

“Nobody really knows them in the area. Accordingly, they were supposed to travel to Sulu from Lanao but decided to abort their plan due to heightened border patrol of our naval forces,” he said.

Police and military were on operation to arrest the two, but were fired upon by the suspects.

On January 5, Maguid was killed after he resisted arrest and engaged in a firefight with policemen at the Angel Beach resort in the village of Katigas in Kiamba town.

Three of Maguid’s companion, identified as Matahata Dialawe Arboleda, Ismael Sahak and Morhaban Veloso, were arrested.

Authorities claimed that Maguid’s group was behind the grenade attack in last year’s festival in nearby Maasim town that killed a police officer and wounded dozens.

The military earlier reported that Maguid was a supporter of the ISIS group.

In November 2015, eight men, including a suspected Indonesian national, were killed as Maguid’s group figured in an encounter with the military in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat.

Five ISIS flags, documents, explosive materials and firearms were found in their possession.

Jihadist used Phl as training ground

From the Philippine Star (Jan 9): Jihadist used Phl as training ground

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said yesterday this was the information they obtained on Abu Naila, a Sudanese who was killed by government troops in a raid in Barangay Daliao, Maasim. AP/Bullit Marquez

A foreigner with suspected links to the Ansar Al-Khilafa Philippines (AKP) was training in the country before possible deployment to join extremists in Syria when he was killed in a government operation in Sarangani on Saturday.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said yesterday this was the information they obtained on Abu Naila, a Sudanese who was killed by government troops in a raid in Barangay Daliao, Maasim.

“He wanted to fight in Syria, but he first went here in the Philippines to train,” Dela Rosa said in a radio interview over dzMM.

He said Naila wanted to fight alongside members of the Islamic State (IS), a terrorist group that has occupied parts of Syria and Iraq.
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“It only shows the AKP is an IS sympathizer and proves the group is aligned with IS,” Dela Rosa said.

Naila and a woman identified only as Kadija were killed in the encounter. Initially, authorities wanted to arrest them but the Sudanese allegedly lobbed a grenade, triggering a shootout.

The raid was part of an effort to locate followers of Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, founder of the local terrorist group, who was killed by government forces at a beach resort in Kiamba, Sarangani on Thursday.

PNP rules out any ‘credible’ terror threat

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan  9): PNP rules out any ‘credible’ terror threat

The Philippine National Police yesterday said there were “no credible and specific” terrorist threats to the annual procession, or “traslacion,” of the Black Nazarene icon in Manila that millions of devotees are expected to attend.

The police assurance came despite a raid on an Islamic center in Manila and the brief detention of scores of people as part of heightened security before the traslacion.

Two men were arrested for illegal drugs during the raid on Saturday, as authorities warned of possible attacks by Islamic militants when the Feast of the Black Nazarene reaches its peak today.

“This is part of security preparations for the Feast of the Black Nazarene,” said Chief Insp. Marissa Bruno, spokesperson for the Manila police.

Strict measures

PNP Director General Ronald dela Rosa said strict measures would be enforced during the procession to ensure that the authorities could respond to any threat, particularly from Islamic extremist groups being pursued by the government.

“Frankly, we have not monitored any credible and specific threat directed toward this specific event. But we want to make sure and we are preparing because it’s possible they will retaliate,” Dela Rosa said in a radio interview.

The top PNP official was referring to the jihadist Ansar al-Khilafa Philippines (AKP), three of whose leaders were killed in police operations last week.

AKP is sympathetic to the terrorist Islamic State operating in Iraq and Syria, and has ties with other terrorist organizations, such as the Maute Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Abu Sayyaf.

Interior Secretary Ismael Sueño agreed with Dela Rosa, saying that the PNP had not received “definite, clear, imminent threat related to traslacion.”

“[B]ut this is a very big event so we are not leaving anything to chance. So we are making very big preparations to ensure the safety of our devotees,” Sueno said in a separate radio interview.

‘Traslacion’ in provinces

He said security measures were also up in other smaller traslacion events in the provinces, such as in Cagayan de Oro City as well as in the initial celebrations of the feast of the Sto. Niño next week, the Sinulog in Cebu City.

Pangasinan to honor WW2 veterans today

From The Standard (Jan 8): Pangasinan to honor WW2 veterans today

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—World War II veterans are set to be honored on the 72nd Lingayen Gulf Landing and 10th Pangasinan Veterans Day commemoration today at the Veterans’ Memorial Park within the Capitol Complex here.

Governor Amado “Pogi” I. Espino III will lead the wreath-laying ceremony along with Dr. Vivencio Villaflor Jr., who is the guest of honor and speaker, and Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Administrator Ernesto Carolina, Philippine Veterans Federation Association president Bonifacio De Gracia, and Australian Embassy Counsellor Kerry Anderson.

An ASNA awardee and a son of a World War II veteran, Villaflor is currently the chairman of the Pangasinan Red Cross and the Dagupan Doctors Villaflor Memorial Hospital.

PVAO-Lingayen Field Office chief Romeo Madriaga expressed his gratitude to Rep. Amado T. Espino Jr. of the fifth district, who is also Pangasinan’s former fovernor, for institutionalizing the event for the unsung heroes, and Espino’s son—the incumbent governor—for carrying on the tradition.

“I was previously assigned to Region 3, But it is only here in Pangasinan that I have seen that support from the local government for our veterans aside from the national government,” Madriaga said.

Apart from cash incentives, war veterans in the province have enjoyed free medical services from the 14 provincial government hospitals.

Madriaga said that PVAO, the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office and the Provincial Health Office go as far as conducting house-to-house visits to war veterans just to hand them the cash incentives and do on-site checkups if they failed to come to the ceremony.

Following the ceremony, a luncheon and medical mission for the veterans will be held at Sison Auditorium. A navy ship collection exhibit donated by the Australian government will also be installed for viewing.

Madriaga said Pangasinan and Cebu had the most number of war veterans during the World War II.
Data shows that number of veterans is dwindling, from 499 in 2016 to just 370 as of this January.

During last year’s commemoration, Carolina had lauded Pangasinan as the “Philippine Cradle of Heroes.”

‘Slain jihadist Syria-bound’

From The Standard (Jan 9): ‘Slain jihadist Syria-bound’

PHILIPPINE National Police chief Ronaldo dela Rosa said the jihadist Abu Naila, who was slain by security forces in Maasim town, Sarangani province Saturday, was on his way to strife-torn Syria.

“The foreign national is believed to be a Sudanese national. He was on his way to Syria, but he dropped by here [in the Philippines]  to conduct training,” Dela Rosa said.

Naila and his wife, Kadija, were killed when he tried to lob a grenade at government forces trying to arrest him.

Police say they found explosive devices, subversive documents and an ISIS (Islamic State) flag on the slain jihadist.

Authorities said they did not yet know how Naila and Kadija were able to sneak into the country undetected, or which international terrorist groups with which they had ties.

Dela Rosa said  the killing of Naila and Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, alias Tokboy, commander of Ansar Al-Khalifa Philippines, an ISIS-linked terror group in Mindanao, was a major setback to the terrorists.

Maguid was killed in an encounter with security forces at the Angel Beach Resort in Kaimba town also in Sarangani province Thursday.

Reports said that at least 12 foreign terrorists have sought sanctuary in different areas in Mindanao, some of them being protected by the Abu Sayyaf Group.

IS ties seen in slain foreign terror suspect

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 9): IS ties seen in slain foreign terror suspect

Police turn over bodies of foreigner, wife to village execs

The operation to arrest foreign terror suspect Abu Naila led to his death and that of his wife, Kadija, whose body lies in the middle of a shack they were hiding in. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The operation to arrest foreign terror suspect Abu Naila led to his death and that of his wife, Kadija, whose body lies in the middle of a shack they were hiding in. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Police had turned over the bodies of a terror suspect and his wife who were killed at a raid on Saturday, leaving behind more unanswered questions about the extent of influence of international terror organizations on local armed crime groups operating in mostly Moro areas.

Senior Insp. Canieso Wanigon Golwingon, police chief of Maasim town in Sarangani province, said the remains of the terror suspect, identified as Abu Naila, and his wife, Kadija, had been turned over to officials of a village in Maasim.

Golwingon said while Naila’s nationality could not be determined yet, the slain suspect is tagged as a bomb expert of the Ansar Al-Khilafah, an emerging international terror organization that is claiming to have affiliates worldwide, including in the Philippines which calls itself Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines (AKP).

Members of the group’s branch in Mindanao, Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao, are believed to have received bomb-making training from Indonesian and Malaysian terrorists, like Marwan.

Golwingon said three other arrested terror suspects—Matahata Diawale Arboleda, Ismael Sahak and Morhaban Veloso—confirmed that Naila was a bomb-making instructor.

The arrested suspects, followers of slain terror leader Jaafar Sabewang Maguid, were unaware of Naila’s nationality.

Maguid, also known as “Tokboy,” headed AKP before his death during a clash with police in Kiamba town on Jan. 5.

“We turned over the remains and they were buried already,” said Golwingon of the bodies of Naila and Kadija.

“Nobody really knows them in the area,” he said. He added that the couple were to travel to Sulu from the Lanao provinces but aborted their plan “due to heightened border patrols.”

Police were out to arrest the two but claimed they were fired upon.

The influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (IS) on local terror groups could be gleaned from what authorities found during raids on the hideouts of Maguid and his followers, who are main suspects in the grenade attack in Maasim town last year that killed a police officer and wounded dozens.

The military had tagged Maguid as an IS supporter.

During a clash in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, between soldiers and Maguid’s group in November 2015, eight men, including an Indonesian national, had been killed.

Security forces hunt down jihadists in Philippines (Warning: Graphic Photos)

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 8): Security forces hunt down jihadists in Philippines (Photos)

Police photos show the slain jihadist fighter Abu Naila and his companion Kadija.

Philippine security forces continue to hunt down jihadists in the restive southern region of Mindanao following the killing of a foreign fighter and his female companion in Sarangani province, officials said Sunday.

Officials said the slain foreigner initially identified only by his alias Abu Naila and the woman Kadija were members of the local jihadist group Ansar-al Khilafah, whose leader Mohd Jaafar Maguid was also killed on January 5 at a resort beach in Kiamba town in the province.

It was not immediately known whether Naila was an Indonesian or Malaysian citizen and authorities were still investigating his background. The woman was believed to be a Filipina jihadist.

Officials said security forces were trying to arrest Naila and had been shot after he tried to toss a hand grenade to a group of army soldiers and police commandos in the town call Maasim over the weekend.

Soldiers also recovered the grenade and other explosives from Naila’s hideout. Several jihadist groups allied with Ansar-al Khalifah may strike in populated areas to avenge the death of Maguid and Naila, officials said.

Security has been tightened in many areas in the South, including the country’s capital.

(Feature) General MacArthur's monument confirms Dagupan was it

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 8): (Feature) General MacArthur's monument confirms Dagupan was it
The presence of the statue of General Douglas MacArthur, towering majestically near the seashore of what was first known as Dagupan Blue Beach, may have already settled the issue as to where the American general who commanded the allied forces that liberated the whole of Luzon from the Japanese first landed on Luzon soil.

Historians argue that the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) could not have chosen Dagupan as host of the MacArthur statue if it was not convinced of the city's big role in history as the first landing place of the American general when he came to Luzon with his troops during an amphibious operation that began at dawn of January 9, 1945.

This amphibious operation involved over 875 warships from the US and one heavy cruiser from the Royal Australian Navy, all comprising of 203,000 soldiers who landed on a 20 mile (32 kilometer)-wide beachhead from Lingayen to San Fabian.

Of these warships, 24 were sank and 67 were damaged by Kamikaze suicide pilots and by big shore batteries set up by the defending Japanese forces in the hills of San Jacinto, some 20 kilometers east of Dagupan.

Coming with his troops after the second day of the landing, MacArthur established his first command post on Luzon at the West Central Elementary School in Dagupan and from where he plotted to retake Manila from the Japanese and free Americans and other foreign nationals detained by the Japanese at the University of Sto. Tomas.

Built sometime in the 1980s during the administration of then Mayor Cipriano Manaois, the MacArthur statue is the first and only monument of the American general in Luzon, a solid testament that he was indeed part of Dagupan's colorful history.

Though this old granite monument now shows signs that it now needs immediate face-lifting, this lone memento of Mac Arthur must be preserved to constantly remind the next generations of Dagupan's important role in the liberation of the Philippines.

One of the bet known authorities on the subject, historian Restituto Basa, now 82, once told this writer that it was just right that the MacArthur monument was built in Dagupan City where the general actually first landed, but lamented that his statue was erected on the wrong part of the beach.
He said the MacArthur Park where the monument stands is inside part of the property of the late Major Moises Maramba, a veteran of World War II, and a former director of the Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB).
It was just logical that Maramba recommended that the statue be built inside his property, which is adjacent to another World War II marker located in another private property where the soldiers of US 6th Army under the command of General Walter Krueger landed and grouped following the beachhead.

But Basa contended that MacArthur was not with this group and landed a day later in another area, some one kilometer east of the monument which was near the place that is now called Ayusip Road, based on eye witness accounts of residents of Bonuan who welcomed Mac Arthur and his troops.

In affirming that MacArthur landed in Dagupan and not in Lingayen, Basa once cited in his book 'Story of Dagupan' black and white photos he successfully obtained from the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Virginia, that more or less confirmed his claim that the American general first stopped in Dagupan on his way to liberate the capital Manila and the whole of Luzon.

Claiming that those insisting that MacArthur first landed in Lingayen could not present any documentary evidence whatsoever to back up their argument, Basa brought out one rare photo in his possession showing the general walking with his staff in the sand dunes teeming then with what he called crawling cantaromas plant.

Cantaromas is a thorny vine then growing wildly in Dagupan during the war years and some could still be found in that beach till now, claimed Basa after closely examining the photograph, in an earlier interview by this writer.

At that time, the Dagupan beach was also teeming with coconut trees, which were in the background of a black and white photo taken when residents of Bonuan happily greeted the allied troops, which explained why at one time, "bucayo" (coconut candy) became a popular household industry in the town.
Basa confessed that these rare photos which he considers treasures in his own trove were taken by Mac Arthur's official photographer and these were believed shot by him in the afternoon of Jan. 10 when the liberation forces were already in effective control of the beach.

But because he can not proceed to Poblacion, Dagupan in the absence of a bridge spanning across the Dawel River, he waited and went back to spend the night in his flagship "Boise".

As soon as his construction battalion finished a pontoon bridge, he returned the next day on board a military jeep and rolled to downtown Dagupan amid cheers of "Victory Joe" along the way by overjoyed residents.

Noting the historical value of the Home Economics building where Mac Arthur briefly stayed in Dagupan , Pangasinan Fourth District Rep. Christopher de Venecia now wants the structure placed under the NHCP, especially after learning that the utensils, blankets, bed and other implements used by the general were still intact and preserved.
One photo on display at the Dagupan City Museum that confirmed that Mac Arthur was in Dagupan was during an inspection of the partly razed commercial district where the general was shown in his khaki uniform still wet till the knees, a clear sign he had just waded in the shore of Bonuan.

Meanwhile, as to the issue on the MacArthur monument being located on a private property, Dagupan City Mayor Belen Fernandez is taking care of that and exerting utmost effort to persuade the Marambas to donate to the city government the lot occupied by the Mac Arthur Park.
However, the drawback is most of the members of the clan have already migrated to the US though one of their relatives--Councilor Joey Maramba Morante Tamayo and also their lawyer -- is now contacting them to seek their imprimature on the donation.

It was learned that when the Maramba patriarch died, his remains were entombed within his property that was once called Villa-MacArthur site, a mix of Villa Milagrosa and MacArthur.

It was once called Villa Milagrosa because Maramba built there a shrine of the Virgin Mary that was soon visited by Catholic pilgrims from various parts of Pangasinan and the country.

However, the Marambas know that they cannot keep the Mac Arthur statue for themselves and would have to share it with the rest of the people of Dagupan.

That is why, anyone wanting to visit the monument will have to wait till the gate of the property opens at 6:00 a.m. until it is closed at 6:00 p.m.

On the other hand, the claim of former Governor Conrado Estrella III quoting MacArthur himself when he and Mrs. Jane MacArthur made a sentimental journey to Pangasinan in 1961 when he was still governor, that he (Mac Arthur) first landed in Lingayen, drew the ire of local historians.

They brushed this aside, saying Lakay Condring (nickname of Estrella) may just be as usual in jest when he said this in a speech sometime in 2012 especially because he was speaking before veterans during another Lingayen Gulf Landing anniversary, a claim instantly picked up by journalist who covered that event.

"Lakay Condring may have said this as he might have only wanted to please his audience when he was speaking during the 2012 Lingayen Gulf Landing anniversary as guest of honor and speaker," said historian Basa, one of those who expressed awe on Estrella's alleged unfounded claim.

Many questioned why did it take Estrella more than 50 years to open up and tell (only that time) what General Mac Arthur confessed to him that he first came to Pangasinan through Lingayen then went back to his flagship "Boise" before landing in Dagupan, when he could have done this when he was yet the governor of Pangasinan.

Estrella, once an appointed mayor in his hometown of Rosales, was elected governor of Pangasinan for two terms and after that became a member of Marcos cabinet. He died in 2013.

Military assures safe Black Nazarene feast, urges devotees to attend

From ABS-CBN (Jan 8): Military assures safe Black Nazarene feast, urges devotees to attend

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is urging devotees of the Black Nazarene to join the “Pahalik” and “Traslacion” on Sunday and Monday, saying fears of terror threats will just “fulfill the desires of terrorists.”

“The Faithful are assured that the security forces have prepared for and implemented the security measures they have laid out for the Believers who will flock to the venues of the Pahalik and the Traslacion,” the AFP said in a statement Sunday.

“They should trust that their security forces are out there, among them, and looking over them in the entire period,” it added.

Last Thursday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno said he has received terror threats from the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf regarding the Black Nazarene procession.

However, both the AFP and the Philippine National Police dismissed rumors of a “credible threat” targeting the procession but are not discounting the possibility of such.

The AFP also urged devotees to follow security rules such as the prohibition of bringing backpacks, guns, pointed objects and drones, as well as throwing of trash.

“Be the additional eyes, ears, and force multiplier to further augment the already beefed up number of military and police personnel by observing people acting suspiciously; or packs left unattended; or other attendees violating established norms,” the AFP said.

Lamitan seaport expansion seen to spur economic growth

From the Philippine Star (Jan 8): Lamitan seaport expansion seen to spur economic growth

Officials inspect the newly reconstructed P150 million worth Lamitan City seaport which was opened to public use on Friday. JOHN UNSON

The new P150 million worth seaport in the province is expected to spur an economic boom that can weaken violent Islamic militants who are using unemployment to stoke public hatred to the government.
The newly built seaport in Lamitan City, capital of the island province of Basilan, was opened to public use on Friday.
Chief Supt. Theodore Sindac, police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), told The STAR on Saturday that he is sure the newly expanded seaport will generate livelihood opportunities for local folks.
“It will help hasten the restoration of normalcy in communities badly affected by armed conflicts in previous years,” Sindac said.
Lamitan City and neighboring towns are home to mixed Muslim and Christian settlers engaged in the propagation of rubber trees, coconuts, coffee and exotic orchards like Lanzones and Mangosteen.
There are also big dried fish industries in seaside towns in the province, a component area of ARMM, which also covers Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
Local traders and entrepreneurs sell their products to buyers in Zamboanga City, an hour away from the island province by sea, and other trading centers in the country reachable only by boats.
“Employment generated by economic activities can help foster peace in the local communities. Without jobs, unemployed adventurists become susceptible to recruitment by lawless elements,” Sindac said.
It took engineers almost a year to expand the old Lamitan City port, according to Engineer Soler Undug, chief of the Basilan District Engineering Office (DEO).
Abu Sayyaf bandits opposed to the expansion of the Lamitan City seaport thrice attempted to execute Undug using powerful improvised explosive devices, worried of its impact to the local economy once accomplished.
The port was turned over on Friday to the city government of Lamitan led by ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and his older sibling Basilan Gov. Jim Hataman.
Engineer Don Loong, ARMM’s public works secretary, was also present in the turnover rite, capped off with the opening of the port to public use.
The 220-day implementation of the port expansion project involved the Basilan DEO, the Department of Public Works and Highways-ARMM and the Santiago Construction Company.
Undug said the old port was expanded to boost the connectivity of Lamitan City and all towns in Basilan to trading centers in Mindanao and other parts of the country.
The project was bankrolled with a P150 million grant from the annual infrastructure subsidy of ARMM from the national government.
The yearly infrastructure budget, allocated for various projects in the region with permission from the House of Representatives and Senate, is channeled through the Office of the Regional Governor, touted as the “Little Malacañang” of the autonomous region.
Undug said they have extended the structurally obsolete ramp of the Lamitan City port by 80 meters. The port's deck was also widened by 21 meters, he added.
“Now it is enough for berthing of large `roll-on and roll-off ships’ carrying passengers, small vehicles and trucks loaded with goods from major trading ports in nearby regions,” Undug said on Saturday.
The vice mayor of Lamitan City, Roderick Furigay, who is a senior member of the city’s peace and order council, said they are expecting an immediate increase in importation of consumer goods from other parts of the country by local merchants following the expansion of their port.
“We are in an island province separated from major trading centers in the country by seas. Without this facility, we can hardly take off economy-wise,” Furigay said.
Lamitan City has barely bounced back from the devastation wrought by conflicts in past decades.
Furigay said they are also expecting an increase in local revenues as a consequence of a foreseeable boom in trading activities the expansion of the port will bring in. 
Senior Supt. Nickson Muksan, Basilan’s provincial police director, said they will secure the port tightly to ensure the safety of all ships that are to dock in the facility.
“We acknowledge the importance of economic activities in curbing lawlessness,” Muksan said.