Declare state of calamity in Basilan – local officials

BASILAN, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Basilan peace and order council on Monday, August 6, endorsed to the provincial board a recommendation to declare a state of calamity in the province.

This was after the military launched manhunt operations in the municipality of Mohammad Ajul following the Basilan bombing on July 31 that authorities attributed to the Abu Sayyaf.

During the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting presided by its chair, Basilan Governor Jim Hataman Salliman, local officials said the ongoing operations would lead to more evacuations in the area.

Declaring a state of calamity would speed up the release of calamity funds for the IDPs, said members of the PPOC during the meeting that was held to discuss security measures in the province after the car blast that killed 10 people.

During the PPOC meeting, local  officials said 705 families have been evacuated as of Monday because of the ongoing military operations. More people are expected to be displaced because of the operations, local officials said during the meeting, which would require funds for relief assistance to the affected families.

"I move to adopt a resolution that the provincial board should declare the area affected by the Mohamad Ajol [operations] be declared as state of calamity," said a member of the council, which was approved by the PPOC.

Before the motion was seconded and approved, Salliman reiterated two more reasons for the proposed state of calamity declaration that was discussed during the meeting – the coconut pest problem (cocolisap) and the rice shortage in the province.

"May I make an amendment, being the chair. I will suggest that the situation on the cocolisap be incorporated and so with the shortage of rice be incorporated in the resolution, as the basis for the declaration of the state of calamity….There is a move, a resolution calling for the Panlalawigan to declare a state of calamity based on 3 reasons," he said.

In a statement on Tuesday, August 7, Armed Forces spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo called out Rappler for reporting that the military operations in Mohammad Ajul town was basis of the proposed state of calamity declaration in Basilan.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has contacted Basilan Governor JIm Hataman-Salliman and he said that the declaration was due to the 'cocolisap' infestation and the ensuing rice shortage. He denies though that it is due to the military operations that followed post the Lamitan City Blast," Arevalo said. 

In 2016, Basilan was placed under a state of calamity because of military operations against the Abu Sayyaf. The clashes then displaced around 2,000 families that needed speedy government assistance. – Rappler.com

Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story, we reported that a state of calamity has been declared in Basilan. This has been corrected to say that the Provincial Peace and Order Council has endorsed the recommendation to the Provincial Board, which has yet to act on the proposal. We regret the error.