Citizen Action Guide to Basilan

 

Area Profile

Basilan is an island province located at the western part of Mindanao, off the Celebes Sea, the Moro Gulf and the Sulu Sea between Zamboanga City and Sulu. It has an aggregate land area of 1,379 square kilometers, including those of its surrounding 61 islands and islets. It is included in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). 

Its population is 408,520 as of 2007. About 32 percent are Yakan, 25 percent Tausug, 15 percent Chavacano, 13 percent Samal, 11 percent Cebuano and 4 percent belonging to other ethnic groups. 

The population is pre-dominantly Muslim at 51 percent. In 2006, then Governor Ustadz Wahab Akbar, husband of current Basilan Governor Jum J. Akbar, led the formation of more municipalities from five municipalities and two cities. Basilan is now comprised of two cities and eleven municipalities.

One of the cities, Isabela, is located in the northern part of Basilan Island and is approximately 17 nautical miles south of Zamboanga City. It is bounded on the east by Lamitan; on the south by the municipalities of Tipo-Tipo, Sumisip and Maluso; on the west by the municipality of Lantawan; and on the north by the Basilan Strait which separates the island from Zamboanga Peninsula. 

On March 5, 2001, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed the Republic Act No. 9023 converting the municipality of Isabela into a component city. 

Lamitan City, Basilan’s capital, is in the eastern part of Basilan. Its neighboring municipalities are Tuburan in the east and Tipo-tipo on the west. Lamitan also serves as the trading center for municipalities like Ungkaya Pukan, Mohammad Ajul, Al Barka and Akbar. 

Lamitan’s total population as of 2007 census is 82,074, with an annual growth rate of 2.7 percent. The usual executive-legislative relationships exist within the city government. The City Human Resource Management Department was created through reorganization in view of City Ordinance No. 2008-01 approving the revised position classification compensation plan and staffing pattern of the city government of Lamitan. This is in line with the Republic Act 9393, converting the then municipality of Lamitan to Lamitan City. 

The people of BasilanLamitan City is accessible to other cities like Zamboanga City on the north and Isabela City in the west. It is the trading hub for agri-marine products from nearby municipalities. It has its own wharf where goods are shipped via roll-on, roll-off (RORO) vessels. Although its top sectors are agriculture and marine products, general trading contributes to its economic stability.

The 11 municipalities of Basilan are:

1.Akbar (population as of 2007: 20,292) 
2.Hadji Mohammad Ajul (21,312) 
3.Albarka (26,132) 
4.Tuburan (26,229) 
5.Tipo-Tipo (26,498) 
6.Lantawan (26,548) 
7.Ungkaya Pukan (28,978) 
8.Maluso (30,472) 
9.Sumisip (48,178) 
10.Hadji Muhtamad (no data) 
11.Tabuanlasa (no data) 

Basilan is generally known as a Yakan-dominated province in the south. More Christians like the Chavacanos, Bisaya, Ilonggos, and other tribes, as well as the Filipino-Chinese live in Isabela City and Lamitan City. The Tausug, Sama Bangi-ngi and the Badjaos live in the coastal areas of Maluso and Lantawan. 

Colleges and other educational institutions continue to increase in Basilan, therefore contributing to the rise of the number of professionals and degree holders here. But majority still don’t have access to secondary and tertiary education because of extreme poverty. 

Basilan is now classified as 2nd class province, supposedly indicating improvements in the levels of opportunities and services. But most Basilenos still live below the poverty level. Many still don’t have access to basic services from the Government.

Security woes in BasilanBasilan is also known as a conflict-prone area. Lawless groups like the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) groups, extortionists and other criminal groups only derail the delivery of basic services to the people and overall development. Peace and order situation in Basilan remains a concern. 

Basilan also still has a lot of catching up to do in terms of services for housing and livelihood: many still don’t have access to decent housing and sufficient income sources. 


LGU Profile

Local government units (LGUs) in Basilan continue to be perceived as highly political and partial, especially during elections. They are perceived to function well only on election season, listening to communities and supposedly providing social services. But, as in general politics in the Philippines, realization of electoral promises ends as soon as officials assume their posts. 

Projects and programs in Basilan are mostly national and foreign-funded. 

Like many provinces, Basilan heavily relies on its Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from the national government. Many claim that the IRA here largely goes to the “pockets of local officials and their fiscal officers” but there is no clear documentation yet on such claims. 

The local chief executives – from the provincial down to the city and municipal levels – are expected to serve and be honest to their constituents and should abide by laws. But in Basilan, they are perceived differently: Many locals openly accuse local government officials of corruption, but don’t pursue further actions to engage the LGUs to improve transparency and accountability.

“Money politics” in the province hits rock bottom during elections, some observers say. Vote buying is rampant. And once elected, politicians are reported to don’t give much attention to the needs of their constituents but rather use their position to “recover” what they spent during elections through public funds. 

Records and support documents of LGU projects in Basilan are commendable, but again, these are reportedly the opposite of what actually takes place during project implementation. 

Past provincial administrations, however, were reportedly responsive to the peoples’ needs. In those times, top programs include fishery and agriculture, health, and security. Communities were also provided livelihood opportunities as means to help reduce poverty. 

Basilenos frequently ask: “Where does the peoples’ money go? Our LGUs receive millions of pesos yet we rarely see project which will benefit us all.” 


Civil Society and Media

The situation of civil society organization (CSO) and media here is far different as compared to those found in urban areas in Mindanao.

CSOs here are mostly organized to assist LGUs in certain projects for communities. Some however remain independent and directly serve communities, such as the Basilan Advocates of Peace, Environment and Sustainable Development Association (BAPESDA). It helps communities here to formulate their own Barangay Development and Security Plans (BDSP). It is also involved in settling clan disputes (rido) in Basilan as well as in other social and community services.

pull quoteThe Basilan Ulama Supreme Council (BUSC), a group of Muslim scholars (ustadz), preaches Islamic values and knowledge and helps settles local conflicts in the province.

Some CSOs here advocate human rights, while others provide livelihood and entrepreneurial assistance. No non-government formation now exists in Basilan to monitor LGU project implementation or public fund use. 

Two radio stations – the DXNO FM Station and the Radyo ng Bayan – operate in the province. But the public here still mostly relies on media based in Zamboanga City for news and information on Basilan, particular LGU activities. 

The Facebook site “Basilan Basilan” is an online space for concerned constituents to express their discontent over the performance of LGUs in Basilan. 


Opportunities and Threats

Basilan is one of the poorest and most depressed provinces in the country.  The presence of armed extremist groups and lawless elements, particularly the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) which has gained international notoriety for kidnap-for-ransom activities, has further aggravated the province’s socio-economic condition. Trade and use of shabu, an illegal drug, is rampant in Basilan; most youth crimes are drug-related. 

To improve security situation here, authorities should support community-based peace and development efforts; help capacitate community sectors on peacebuilding skills and poverty reduction; and involve different sectors in peace-related information campaigns. 

The authorities should also improve basic service delivery (such as health and education); engage the media for peace information dissemination as well as the youth and other sectors in collaborative projects.