LIEUTENANT COLONEL EDGARD A AREVALO PN(M)
Director, Naval Public Affairs Office
Thursday, 28 January 2010
In a show of unity for peace and progress, residents of Barangays Batu-bato, Malimbaya and Sionogan in Indanan, Sulu pushed for the resumption of works to finish the 8km Malimbaya-Sionogan Road on 22 January 2010. The road project, which is part of the Sulu Circumferential Road Network, is being funded by the United States Government through the civic action program of the US Armed Forces who are helping the Philippine Marines to combat terrorism in Southern Philippines. Rogue members of the MNLF and Abu-Sayaff terrorists have attempted to sabotage the project several times in the last four months.
According to LtCol Robert Velasco, Commander of the 6th Marine Battalion in Indanan area who spearheaded the resumption of the roadwork, terrorists have sabotaged three bridges along the road stretch and continued to harass civilian workers and the Marines who are securing the project. Velasco said that in the past two weeks alone, there were three skirmishes between the Marines and the Abu-Sayaff. This angered the local populace who directly benefit from the project. Salip Tito Jainal, one of the barangay captains in the area, said that peace and development cannot be held back by the terrorists. “Gusto lang naman namin ng maayos na kalsada at kung kailangan naming maninidigan dito ay gagawin namin”, Jainal said.
The road project has been stalled for the past four months because of the threats in the area. However, Brigadier General Tino Pereyra of the 3rd Marine Brigade initiated a multi-sectoral effort to push for the continuation of the project. Pereyra said that it was the Marines, LGU, civic organizations, and the local people themselves who united so that the project will continue. “This road is for the people and by the people. The Marines is just an instrument so that peace and development loving people can come together to work for development projects like this one” added Pereyra who is well known is Sulu for his down-to-earth ways of dealing with the locals.
Last January 15, a similar 7km road project was opened in Indanan. A school project and a barangay hall were also handed over to the local officials by Brigadier General Rustico Guerrero, Commander of the anti-terror Task Force Comet, and Colonel Bill Coultrup of the US forces. Two US soldiers and a Philippine Marine died while constructing this school building when terrorists attacked their convoy with IED in November last year. Guerrero said that they will continue to push for development projects and they will not let violence hamper peace and progress. The RP-US partnership and peace endeavor in Sulu is fast becoming a model of countries combining their efforts in addressing the root causes of terrorism.
The Malimbaya-Sionogan road project is expected to be completed in March. Velasco said that they will do it fast because the people in Sulu have long deserved this good road. “We will show the people in these far flung areas that the government is here and that other peace-loving people will help them. Several other low cost development projects that directly impact the lives of poor people are lined up for implementation in Sulu Province through the help of the US government,” Velasco said.