Teodoro says internal stability still a priority

October 6, 2023

Isabela City, Basilan (October 5, 2023) – During the ceremonial opening of the Assistance for Security, Peace, Integration and Recovery for Advancing Human Security (ASPIRE) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Project at the Kasinnahan Hotel and Resort on Thursday, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro reiterated that internal security is as much a priority as external defense.

Secretary Teodoro stated that the ASPIRE project is a proactive and innovative way of reducing the proliferation of illegal weapons in society, as one of the mandates of the current administration is the safeguarding of the country’s internal security.

“Kaalinsabay ng ASPIRE project, kailangan ang police and military visibility to deter any form of aggression, para sa mga magsu-surrender, mararamdaman nila na safe sila,” the defense chief said, highlighting the recent achievement of the Western Mindanao Command where 6 members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and 8 ASG supporters surrendered along with 13 high-powered weapons.

ASPIRE aims to promote the decommissioning and normalization of the Bangsamoro peace process by reducing small arms and light weapons (SALWs) in the region. It also aims to provide livelihood support to former combatants and members of private armed groups, as well as raise awareness on the negative effects of possessing SALWs.

The ASPIRE Project started in September 2022, when the Japanese government signed a $5 million (PhP285 million) grant. The project is implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in consultation with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU); the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF); and the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC).
The DND Secretary also expressed his gratitude to the Japanese government for being resolute partners in making the Philippines a strong and resilient country, both internally and externally, adding that programs such as ASPIRE intend to harden the country’s integrity in order to face external challenges.

“Japan and the Philippines, alongside other like-minded nations, enforce the rule of international law and rules-based global international orders,” Secretary Teodoro said.

The defense chief then encouraged the citizens of Basilan to protect their hard-earned peace as there are many groups who are trying to wreak havoc.

“I thank the BARMM for being proactive in engaging with the national government to solidify our processes of governance, so that the threats to national security are eliminated,” Secretary Teodoro concluded.

Also present in the activity were Special Assistant to the President Secretary Antonio Lagdameo Jr.; Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos; Presidential adviser on Peace Reconciliation and Unity Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.; Interim Chief Minister of the BARMM Honorable Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim; Governor of Basilan Jim Hataman-Salliman; Colonel Michio Suda (Ret), First Secretary, Political Section, Embassy of Japan in the Philippines; Dr. Srinivas Kumar, from the UNDP Philippines; Honorable Akmad Brahim and Mr. Ariel Hernandez, co-chairpersons of the JNC.

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