With its formal institutionalization at the start of 2021, Western Basilan Alliance (WBA), a local government alliance of four municipalities on the western seaboard of Basilan province in southern Philippines, is pivoting to new opportunities.


WBA was formally established on 29 January 2021 with the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the local chief executives of Hadji Muhtamad, Lantawan, Maluso and Sumisip municipalities in a ceremony held at the provincial capitol in Isabela City and witnessed by Basilan Governor Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman. Mayors Nerwelyn Mansul, Nursiyah Ismaell, Hanie Bud, and Jul-adnan Hataman signed the agreement binding their respective local government units to the partnership.


With the MOA signed, the alliance can now explore how to harness and protect the myriad of ecosystems straddling the four municipalities. To manage these resources, WBA will leverage primarily on the ridge-to-river-to-reef or 3Rs approach, addressing at the same time key concerns like poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace, and justice.


The MOA highlights the alliance’s vision for peace and prosperity, establishing WBA as a platform for consultation and development founded on good governance and sustainable economy. The Local Government Code of 1991 states that local government units, through appropriate ordinances, may group themselves, consolidate or coordinate their efforts, services, and resources for purposes commonly beneficial to them.


Governor Hataman urged the mayors to move forward and use the alliance to help develop Basilan. “The important thing now is sustainability, giving substance [to WBA], and empowering the people economically, politically, culturally and socially,” he said.


Carlos Cavanillas, general coordinator of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), hailed the institutionalization of WBA, noting that the “success of alliance building requires a deep change of culture of the traditional way of government.”


“This kind of efforts requires virtues.  Patience to understand and to accept that your efforts need some time to materialize; seriousness to accomplish the commitment; ability to work and decide as a team; and humility to recognize that you are not the only one who is always right.  We must understand though that this kind of initiatives should be developed within appropriate climate of peace and safety,” he added.


The Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) through the Modeling Inter-LGU Alliance in Basilan (MILAB) project supported by AECID implemented capacity building activities two years prior in preparation for the institutionalization of WBA as model for participatory development and good governance. Knowledge and skills gained during this period pertain to critical ingredients in building and sustaining interlocal cooperation and the necessary legal, financial, and institutional requirements for operationalizing the alliance.


As the WBA is envisioned as a platform for collaborative activities among the four local government units, particularly on coastal and marine development, the MILAB project trained alliance members on resource mapping and various tools, value chain analysis and social enterprise models, among others.