"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Monday, August 20, 2007

Invest in Peace

For Senator Richard Gordon, who spent two days in Sulu and Basilan last week, military action must be coupled with “physical, social, and legal infrastructure in the region.”

In his report to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which he made available to the media, Gordon said residents welcome the gun ban being enforced in Sulu.

“The local people, while edgy about the recent fighting and the military presence, are happy about the gun ban,” he said, adding that the Sulu governor has successfully convinced all elected local executives -- mayors and village chairmen -- to report to their posts, not in faraway Zamboanga City.

“What the people there are complaining about has to do with the poor provision of basic services like schools, water and roads, the payment of salaries to teachers, and support for economic activities,” he said.

Gordon urged Arroyo to finish the circumferential road in Isabela, Basilan and enable faster movement of goods and people.

“[The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao] is quite simply the poorest in the country. We can drain local support for extremism and terrorism if the local people can feel and see vital public and social services and good governance in their midst. For this kind of capacity-building, assistance from the national government is a must,” he said.

Gordon, who is also chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross, said his organization is setting up a full-fledged blood bank for Basilan and Sulu by upgrading the present blood station into a blood collection unit. He also said the two provinces have been provided a brand new four-wheel-drive ambulance each.

“We have installed a single-side band radio communications [system] in Isabela and Lamitan towns. We continue to send blood products and supplies and medicine to Basilan and Sulu. We have augmented our staff with foreign conflict-trained personnel to help manage response, relief, and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons and other challenges. We are implementing water projects in both islands. And we will put up a health station in Albarca, Basilan, the site of the recent ambush,” he said.

By Veronica Uy
Last updated 05:36pm (Mla time) 08/20/2007


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