Volunteers from the conflict-affected islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (collectively known as BASULTA) have completed Mines and UXO Risk Education (MRE) Providers’ training. Because of security problems in the islands, the volunteers were brought to the, relatively, more secure confines of Zamboanga City. The intensive 3-week course covered the theory and practice of MRE, with practical exercises carried out in the classroom and in IDP centres and transit camps in Zamboanga.
The training also covered the design of MRE materials and the volunteers were able to adapt messages and posters to the culture and language of each island and the types of unexploded ordnance (UXO) likely to be found. UXO contamination on the islands is a result not only of recent conflicts between separatist movements and the Abu Sayaf, but also from the Second World War.
Eleven volunteers successfully completed the training, and returned to the islands with sufficient knowledge and materials to begin an MRE campaign in UXO-affected areas. Since the training course, they have provided risk education to UXO-affected communities and report back to FSD on the results.
The BASULTA course followed continuation training for nine MRE volunteers from Zamboanga City, who had originally been trained to carry out Emergency MRE in October 2013, following the intense and destructive conflict between the MNLF and government forces in September last year. UXO from the fighting is still being found in the city, and the volunteers are still active in the IDP centres and local communities. FSD’s strategy for MRE in the Philippines is for national instructors train future MRE providers. In support of this aim, Zamboanga volunteers and FSD’s local partner, the Philippines Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL), assisted in the training of the BASULTA volunteers. Future MRE courses will make even more use of national instructors.
The training was carried out as part of FSD’s “Mine Action Support to the Peace Process” programme, funded by the European Union’s “instrument for Stability”. Aside from Risk Education, the programme also covers UXO survey and the training of local capacities in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Ammunition Safety Management (ASM) in Mindanao.