OPAPP to aid RPA-ABB members, ex-NPA rebels

BACOLOD CITY -- The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) will provide about PHP500-million worth of livelihood and social protection assistance to former members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army – Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) and their families, as part of its efforts to achieve inclusive and sustainable peace in the region.

During his visit to Negros Occidental province last March 8, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. said the assistance package will include social protection programs, capacity development, livelihood and employment assistance, housing assistance, and financial aid to former combatants and their families.

“We are committed to help former combatants in their transformation to productive and normal civilian lives. We want them to feel the dividends of peace,” he said in a news release.

The assistance is part of the implementation of the Clarificatory Implementing Document (CID) to the 2000 Peace Agreement, formulated in consultation with the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas - Revolutionary Proletarian Army - Alex Boncayao Brigade Tabara - Paduano Group and Kapatiran para sa Progresibong Lipunan (RPMP/RPA/ABB-TPG/KAPATIRAN) and concurred by various national government agencies.

The CID have five components -- Disposition of Arms and Forces (DAF) and Security Arrangements; Social and Economic Reintegration of the RPMP/RPA/ABB-TPG/KAPATIRAN; Release of the remaining Alleged Political Offenders; Transformation of the members into civilian organization engaging in socio-economic and political activities; and Community Peace Dividends.

While the document is expected to be signed this year yet, the government began undertaking socio-economic interventions to boost development in the communities.

As part of its Community Peace Dividends (CPD) program, 100 barangays jointly identified by TPG and the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police received grants to support livelihood and enterprise development and community-based impact projects.

Some 91 of these areas are from Region 6 (Western Visayas) while some are located in Davao City (6), Bukidnon (2), and Ilocos Sur (1) where community impact projects have been implemented by their respective community livelihood associations.

These 100 associations organized under Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan – Department of Social Welfare and Development (PAMANA-DSWD) Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) received PHP500,000 in seed capital for their own projects.

Under its Socio-Economic Reintegration Program, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) entered into an agreement with the KAPATIRAN for the establishment of Peace Development Community (PDC) sites in 2017 and 2018 to provide support to the social and economic reintegration of their members.

These PDC sites will be provided with housing, tenurial security, access roads, electricity and water, potable water, health services, educational facilities, livelihood assistance, and common service facilities.

The DENR also engaged with the KAPATIRAN in seedling production and other agro-forestry activities and employed 128 RPA-TPG members as Forest Guards under the National Greening Program.

In the Social Protection Program, 439 members of RPA-TPG and 8,963 individuals from CPD areas are currently beneficiaries of PAMANA - Philhealth Program for 2018 while 60 family members of the group and CPD members are grantees under the PAMANA - Commission on Higher Education (PAMANA-CHED) Study Grant Program.

Meanwhile, Galvez assured members of the New People’s Army (NPA), who opted to return to the mainstream and live a normal and peaceful life, that OPAPP will design an exclusive benefit package aside from the Enhanced-Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) benefits they will be receiving.

“We’re hoping that this will attract more rebels to go back to the folds of law,” he said.

Galvez added that his office will continue supporting localized peace engagements as national government-led peace talks were used by the communist insurgents to “regain lost ground and reconstitute its NPA forces.”

“For more than 30 years of negotiations with the NDF (National Democratic Front), the government has given so much concessions just to build confidence, and for them to abandon their armed struggle. But the government did not gain anything from the peace talks” he said.

The peace adviser also said that a whole-of-nation approach is the most effective way to end the decades-long insurgency in the countryside.

“The promise of the President to achieve enduring peace will be pursued aggressively through EO (Executive Order) 70, a mechanism that is timely and effective, given the current state of insurgency,” he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte issued EO 70 on Dec. 4, 2018 which institutionalizes a whole-of-nation approach in attaining peace and creates a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

OPAPP is a member of the task force along with 18 other government agencies. (PR)