ZAMBOANGA CITY (PNA)–The commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) on Saturday said the strong collaboration between the security forces and stake-holders is the key why the dreaded Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is losing its rele-vance in the island province of Basilan.
“As Westmincom com-mander, I am advocating that the ‘Basilan success story’ be used as a template for every peace and deve-lopment efforts in all other provinces. We can all see that it is one of the most successful so far,” newly-promoted Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., Westmincom chief said during the culmination of “Kalasig-Lasigan” Festival in the town of Sumisip.
Galvez attributed the strong partnership of the local government units in the island province of Basilan and the military in its fight against banditry.
Sumisip, which has been the stronghold of the ASG, is now gradually being taken over by the local communities and the military.
Earlier, the regional government of the Autono-mous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), also took over the barangays of Baiwas in the town of Sumisip, Baguindan in the adjacent town of Tipo-Tipo, and Macalang in the town of Al-Barka. The Abu Sayyaf bandits had occu-pied all these areas.
Galvez said he is replicating the success in Basilan throughout West-mincom’s area of respon-sibilities, which includes the entire western and central Mindanao areas.
In his message, Galvez said that he was over-whelmed by the significant developments and progress he had seen in the town of Sumisip.
Galvez has previously served as the brigade commander of Basilan province.
“So much has changed and so much has improved since the last time I was here,” Galvez said.
“I am very proud to be previously assigned in this area of the province,” he added.
Galvez expressed the full support of his command to all peace endeavors of Sumisip municipality and the entire province of Basilan.
He was joined by Col. Juvymax Uy, Joint Task Force Basilan commander; and the Battalion Com-manders under the task force.
“Rest assured that your soldiers will not stop supporting your efforts and developmental initiatives. We will be your partner in advocating peace and progress not only in Sumisip but also in all of Basilan and in the entire Westmincom area,” Galvez said.
For his part, Basilan Gov. Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman expressed his gratitude for the support the province is receiving from Westmincom.
“I would like to call the people of Sumisip to have a stake over the fight against lawlessness and terrorism. It is not just a military problem, but firstly, an issue that the local government units and the people of Basilan must address together. The military is just there to support and help us in this fight,” Salliman said.
The week-long “Kala-sig-Lasigan” Festival, which means “merry-making” in Tausug, started on Monday. The festival includes traditional Yakan dances and songs, showca-sing the rich and beautiful culture of the natives.
A “dulang” contest was also one of the highlights of the activity, participated by the different barangays of Sumisip.