Fifty evacuee families whose houses were burned down in the 3-week war in Zamboanga City received new low-cost houses from the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA) during a turnover ceremony on Saturday, October 31.
ZABIDA provided the Sama Bangingi fisherfolk families with building materials and they themselves helped one another to construct the houses on stilts. The houses-on-stilts each cost P50,000 in the form of lumber and galvanized roofing. The project was funded by the Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion Internacional para Desarollo (AECID), the international development agency of the Spanish government, through the representation by Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF.
At the turnover program, Fr. Calvo, who is president of ZABIDA, urged the Simariki families to remain united and speak with one voice to demand for their rights to be rehabilitated in their original community. He told them to “dream high” as they strive to rise above the tragedies and destruction the war caused to their lives. Some 300 families who resided at the one-hectare island were forced to abandon their homes and possessions by the violence.
Fr. Calvo noted that aside from decent houses, they need more material amenities in the form of electricity and lighting, mosque, fishing vintas, and the grant of ancestral domain title.
The families have organized themselves into the Simariki Indigenous Sama Bangingi Association (SISBA) to work for the rehabilitation and development of their community. SISBA is headed by Nasir Ismula.
Ismula urged his fellow community residents to stay united to better help the government rebuild the island. The government has deployed a Marines detachment in the island, which served as the beachhead of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) as they landed from Sulu and Basilan to stage an armed attack of the city. Ismula had said the community also needs a multipurpose building, daycare center, and footpaths to connect the houses. Children have to take a short boat ride to reach the community school located in Talon-Talong barangay.
In receiving the housing units, the recipients individually signed a memorandum of agreement that enumerated the conditions for ownership and occupancy of the houses. These include observing sanitation, exclusive use for residence, non-transfer or sale of rights, and the prerogative to improve or expand the houses.
Fr. Calvo said he will source more humanitarian assistance to build as many as 100 houses more in Simariki. He said the Sama Bangingi have a right to return to their ancestral village after being forced out by the violence and a government no-return declaration. He said the Sama Bangingi have inhabited the area even before other people started to migrate to the city. The Sama Bangingi residents fondly recall that their ancestors helped the Spanish colonizers build the Fort Pilar.
Among those who graced the turnover rite were ZABIDA vice-president Dr. Grace Rebollos, ZABIDA board director Atty. Jose Manuel Mamauag, three Talon-Talon barangay councilmen, and P/Supt. Fictal Majuddin, chief of the Salam Police Office of the Regional Police Office-9.