ISABELA, Philippines (AP) _ The military commander in the southern Philippines said today he will arm teachers so they can protect themselves against bandits on a southern island.

Maj. Gen. Ruperto Ambil, chief of the Southern Command, said he agreed to the proposal made by Adzhar Sarahadil, provincial school superintendent of Basilan Island, during a meeting today in this provincial capital.

``It is apparent that the law enforcement authorities cannot ensure the safety of the teachers all the time,'' Sarahadil said. ``We know that the arming of the teachers is the extreme solution, but we cannot allow our teachers to be victimized again by these lawless elements.''

Sarahadil said he made the proposal after numerous ransom kidnappings of teachers by bandits and Muslim extremists operating on Basilan, about 550 miles south of Manila.

Teachers _ most of whom are women _ are the most defenseless civil servants in the remote areas.

In the latest kidnapping, last Friday, gunmen seized eight public school teachers on their way to school on a small island off Tipo-Tipo town, south of Isabela.

The kidnappers released one of teachers and demanded that one gunman's motorcycle, which was confiscated by authorities for not being registered, be returned to him in exchange for the others' freedom. The exchange was made the following day.

In June 1994, members of the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf group seized 21 public school teachers outside Isabela from a convoy of passenger buses. They also killed 15 Christian men in the convoy. They held the teachers for several weeks until Muslim religious leaders helped win their release.

Sarahadil said female teachers in remote mountain villages will be replaced by male teachers, who will be armed with M-14 and World War II vintage M-1 Garand rifles.

Ambil said these teachers must first undergo training in handling the weapons and be integrated into the civilian militia before they are authorized to carry guns.