By Julmunir I. Jannaral
SITANGKAI, Tawi-Tawi: The Philippine Marine troops of Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi 2nd Marine Brigade, led by their commander, Brig. Gen. Romeo Racadio visited Panguan Island, Barangay Datu Putih, Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi a day before Christmas to establish a sovereignty marker in the area.
Major Andrew Linao, spokesman of Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) said the success of the mission is attributed to the strengthened collaboration between the armed forces and the local government of Sitangkai, Tawi-Tawi.
Linao explained clearly that Panguan Island is one of the “last southwestern island frontiers of the Philippines.”
He said it was formerly used by kidnappers, smugglers, and other lawless groups to exploit the vulnerable and marginal Sama-Badjao tribe on the island until it was secured in 2017.
Now, the island is the home of an eighty-household community of Sama-Badjaos whose children are educated by the civilians and military personnel of the marine detachment stationed thereat.
“As an exercise of sovereignty, the marker demonstrates the belongingness of the maritime feature and its inhabitants to one country. The local government needs to place one, because, Panguan or locally called “Panggungan” (resting safe area), is too remote from the provincial seat of government in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi but in close proximity to another foreign place,” Brig. Gen. Racadio said.
It can be recalled that the sovereignty marker was also installed in Bakkungan (Great) Island, municipality of Turtle Islands in October 2021.
In the coming months, the provincial and municipal local government units in the province of Tawi-Tawi will continue to support and partner with the military to place more of these markers in other islands located in the margin areas of the province in order to set the expectation that residents of these places are entitled to the same rights and protection as mandated by the Constitution, according to the 2nd Marine Brigade commander.
“With our strengthened collaboration with our partners and stakeholders, we continue to gain significant breakthroughs in our campaigns to ensure the safety and security of the people and the state,” Lt. Gen. Alfredo Rosario, Jr., commander of Western Mindanao Command said. JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL