Rebuilding from the ashes of conflict in Tawi-Tawi

Posted on July 18, 2014

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Former commanders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the southernmost island-province of Tawi-Tawi say their communities are reaping the benefits of peace and development through the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program of the national government.

Phaysal Aral, an MNLF commander who went by the name Omar Shariff at the height of the Moro rebellion of the 1970s, is one former rebel who attests to PAMANA’s results.

“I was part of the team that helped implement the school project in Yusoph Dais Elementary School,” he said.

Mr. Aral said more classrooms for the school in Barangay Sanga-Sanga have been built through PAMANA, a development-intervention program for isolated, conflict-affected communities.

“At the height of Martial Law, the entire barangay of Sanga-Sanga was razed to the ground. We had one major battle here,” Mr. Aral said.

He remembers being among the MNLF fighters who were assigned to take over an airstrip in the barangay to prevent government forces from launching air strikes against the rebels.

Mr. Aral said one of his goals after the war was to rebuild the barangay from the ashes of armed conflict.

Aside from the classrooms, the barangay’s lone health center was also built through PAMANA, said Mohamadnoe Jamaluddin, another former MNLF commander.

“We need more developmental projects like these. We see the need for more school buildings because our population is growing,” Mr. Jamaluddin said.

Because of PAMANA, “there is no need for the residents here to travel to Bongao [the capital of Tawi-Tawi] for medical attention,” Mr. Jamaluddin said. “It saves us money. We can use the money we save to buy medicines and food.”

The PAMANA program has also funded the Pakias-Karungdong road project, which serves as a farm-to-market road for the island’s farmers. -- Albert F. Arcilla