Before a crowd of tens of thousands, vice-presidential candidate Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan recalled his childhood days visiting relatives in the province and swimming at the Malamawi white beach here.
“Meron pong koneksyon ang aming pamilya dito sa Basilan. Ang aking lola, si Violet Hizon, ay nakalibing dyan sa Lanote Cemetery,” Pangilinan said in his remarks during the grand rally for the Team Robredo-Pangilinan (TRoPa) held at the Isabela Plaza Wednesday night.
His aunt Tessie, sister of his mother Emma, was married to a scion of the prominent Alano family of Basilan.
“Nagkaroon na ako ng pagkakataon na pumunta dito nung ako ay bata pa. Sa white sand beach, nag-swimming kami dyan…Sa tuwing ako ay napaparito ay nag-aalay po ako ng bulaklak dyan po sa aking grandmother,” he narrated.
Meanwhile, Basilan TRoPa supporters listened intently to the speeches of Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Pangilinan, and the rest of the ticket who visited the province.
Mona, 37, entrepreneur, lauds Pangilinan for shepherding the Sagip Saka law which aims to help to improve the lives of farmers and fisherfolk through direct government procurement of their produce and catch.
“This is the first time I’m hearing about it (Sagip Saka). But I wouldn’t be surprised if he has done something big like that because Sen. Kiko doesn’t talk much about his achievements. He’s very humble,” Mona said, adding that the landmark law should be promoted more.
“I hope there’s a stronger publication about Sagip Saka. All the more I’m still voting for him (Pangilinan),” she said.
Mona is among the thousands of Basilan folks who showed up to the TRoPa grand rally at the plaza center of Isabela Wednesday night.
Local organizers put the estimate of the crowd in the Basilan people’s rally at 45,000.
Rommel Sta. Cruz, who works as utility personnel at the Querijeta Formation Center, said he is concerned about the issues of peace and order, and wanted to know more about TRoPa’s livelihood projects for farmers and fishermen.
Sagip Saka for Basileños
When he served as food security secretary during the time of former President Benigno Aquino III, Pangilinan also visited Basilan to solve the problem of cocolisap infestation.
In 2019, he shepherded the passage of Republic Act 11321 or the Sagip Saka law that mandate national and local government agencies to directly procure the bounties of farmers and fishermen at fair price, sans the intervention of middlemen and the need for public bidding.
Entrepreneur-TRoPa supporter Mona has been eager to hear what TRoPa can bring to help the farmers and fisherfolk specifically in the Bangsamoro area to ensure the smooth flow of the supply chain.
“We are still reliant on the produce of neighboring provinces and cities. I know the LGU (local government unit) has a lot of programs for the farmers and entrepreneurs here so they can have a sustainable livelihood,” she said.
With a vast tract of land, Basilan needs technical capacity for farmers although the LGU has been working hard to provide help local farmers, fishermen, and businessmen achieve sustainable livelihood for everyone, she added.
Pangilinan said Sagip Saka is the key. He said he won twice in Basilan when he ran for senator in 2007 and for re-election in 2016. “At dahil malapit sa ating puso ang Basilan, kung tayo ay palarin ay di natin malilimutan at palaging nasa isipan natin ang Basilan,” he said.