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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

AFP Seabees, JSOTF-P Celebrate New Road Construction Project

By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines Public Affairs

BASILAN, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines, in partnership with Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines, celebrated the construction of the Tipo-Tipo-Sungkayot-Matata road during a ground-breaking ceremony Oct. 28.

The project is part of a collaborative relationship, combining resources from several military services, including the AFP’s National Development Support Command, First General Construction Company and JSOTF-P.

“I am so happy that this road will be rehabilitated and am grateful for the support of the Filipino and U.S. forces. We can now move our products closer to the shoreline and this will bring hope to this area,” said Hassim Jawil, a local resident.

Although JSOTF-P has partnered with AFP on a number of construction projects, this is first time JSOTF-P is providing the supplies for a road project with the AFP Navy Seabees doing the labor. Once completed, the road will connect the municipalities of Sumisip, Tipo-Tipo and Ungkaya Pukan. The two previous projects were school constructions; also located in Sumisip.

“It’s great to work together with the AFP to bring development, goods and access to this area,” said U.S. Army Capt. Charlie Claypool, a JSOTF-P servicemember from Civil Affairs Team 734.

Last August, members of AFP’s Army’s 3rd Light Reaction Company, 61st Force Reconnaissance Company, Force Reconnaissance Battalion, Special Operations Platoon 10 and Marine Battalion Landing Team 10 reclaimed the area surrounding the road from the Abu Sayyaf Group and other militant organizations, paving the way for future development rojects.

Previously, residents were driven out of their homes and forced to move further north due to ASG and other terrorist entities, which set up training camps in the area.

Once built, the road will bring new infrastructure into the southwest region of Basilan and extend down to the coastline area for nine kilometers (5.58 miles). Checkpoints are planned throughout the road, provided by AFP Marines, allowing locals ease of mobility to safely relocate and move products and services. Additionally, the road will permit greater access for the AFP to counter terrorist activities.

With Hon. Jum J. Akbar, governor Basilan province, and Rear Adm. Alexander P. Pama, commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao, as guests of honor the celebration began with brief remarks from Pama, Akbar and the mayors of Tipo-Tipo and Sumisip.

“The strategic importance of this road cannot be over-emphasized,” said Pama. “This is not the first time that our forces and U.S. forces have worked together for humanitarian and engineering projects. We thank our brothers from the U.S. Armed Forces,” he said.

Hon. Ingatun Lukman G. Istaru, mayor of Tipo-Tipo, spoke of the problems in the area specifically that schools were previously only located along the main highway, denying those without access to the roads education and opportunities.

“The ASG is not born out of ideology, but frustration. When there are good roads, there are also good people,” said Istaru.

After the guest’s remarks, Akbar and Pama reviewed the maps and blueprints of the road project and then placed them into a plastic capsule, burying them in front of the new road sign, marking the beginning of the road.

“It is traditional custom for [AFP Seabees] to place the maps and blueprint into the ground before starting any construction project,” said 2nd Lt. Beryl Charity T. Bacolol, an AFP Marine officer.

Bacolol also spoke of the significance of the road for the AFP

“This road will enable us to do our operations and give us faster recovery of our wounded if something should happen,” she said.

Immediately after the celebration, AFP Seabees started working on the road, symbolizing a new chapter of infrastructure projects which promises to bring to the community peace and prosperity.

“We are just so happy the militaries here are supporting the civilians in our area for the sake of our businesses and cultural plans throughout the Basilan region,” said Basad Iklaman, a resident of the Barangay (community) of Sundkat.

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