The aftermath of the bombing in Jolo will not show up in the gross development product of the country. But for the local community, there will definitely be a lowering of economic activity. The lockdown imposed by the military and police authorities will mean establishments closing earlier if not relocating to larger and perceived well protected areas. Less consumer spending as families migrate to safer communities and all the interconnectedness create a negativeenvironment.
It will be the same for similar porous centers close to neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia where it is alleged the ISIS can easily come and go despite the memorandum of agreement among the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. Each country’s major concern is protecting its borders; not really preventing terrorists from leaving. It is important to surround the archipelago with enough sea-craft which means a larger and modern Philippine Navy with the Philippine Coast Guard integrated into it.
Within Mindanao which still is under martial, is the best time to pilot test the national ID system. It should be issued by a national agency with sufficient information technology and data capability. A clear distinction should be made between military and police operations. The police forces stick to protecting civilian communities while the military undertake field operations. The police should transmit intelligence information gathered from the barangays to the military as the police strengthen their partnership with community leaders. To emphasise the distinction the police officers should stop using military ranks, like generals and stick to civilian/police titles like superintendents. Within Mindanao, areas of operations should be delineated avoiding the instances of misencounters.
Reorientation and training of police forces are required. Their task is to maintain good relationships with the community. They are not only the protectors; they also are the mentors in first aid skills, fire prevention, environmental protection and enhancement and health and wellness programs. They should endeavour to win the trust and confidence of the local community and encourage the local folks to appreciate the role of the military. In strong coordination with military engineering units, school houses can be built, bridges and roads repaired and other needed infrastructure constructed. And when an encounter with rebels and terrorists spells a military victory, a municipality and the townspeople should celebrate -everyone should feel part of the success!
Imagine if this strategy is implemented all over Mindanao. We will have hubs of peace and prosperity radiating in all directions reaching the coastal shores. They will connect the whole of Mindanao into a large island of progress and development. There will be a working partnership between the local communities, the military and the police all at the ground level and with no need for imperial Manila to jet down to solve every problem.
How will all these costs be met? If our national economic team puts together the 2019 budget for all these agencies, they may be surprised that the needs are covered. DILG can persuade the local officials to allot part of their IRA as counterpart to the military infrastructure projects for the community. The PNP can shift their allotment for field operations to the military and the DND can share with the PN and PCG it’s capital expenditure budget.
What will have to be funded are the extra personnel for all these units. I am positive President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will always find a way. Then Mindanao will be like Davao, where the fear of terrorism will fund the fight against terrorism.