CATBALOGAN CITY, Samar – Sectoral representatives in Eastern Visayas have pledged to help wipe out the aged-old insurgency in the region through active participation in peace and development efforts.
Representatives from the indigenous group, farmers and fishermen, women, peasants, laborers, and youth sectors signed the Eastern Visayas Peace and Development Manifesto during a two-day conference at the M Grand Convention Center here that concluded Tuesday night.
Jennifer Cabadonggan, 38, leader of the 80-member Mamanwa tribe in Basey, Samar said they have been supportive of the efforts of the government to fight insurgency.
"We have been living in peace. I am happy for the new major road project traversing our village and the establishment of an army battalion in our community to achieve this," Cabadonggan said.
The tribe moved to Basey town in 2012 after they were displaced by armed conflict and mining in San Jose de Buan town.
The site where they settled in Guirang village used to be a conflict-stricken area until the government started the road construction in 2015, a shorter link of Samar and Eastern Samar provinces, and the establishment of a nearby army camp in 2019.
The tribe asked the government's help to own land for planting and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities.
Cabadonggan is just one of the 150 sectoral representatives who joined the regional conference.
The conference generated a list of issues and concerns from sectoral representatives to help end the influence of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the region.
"In this activity, we have invited people in the grassroots and not the business leaders or local government officials. This exemplifies that the government seriously addresses the needs of the marginalized sector," said Major Gen. Pio Diñoso III, commander of the Philippine Army's 8th Infantry Division.
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Eastern Visayas regional director Darwin Bibar said the output of the two-day event will serve as a reference for the Social Reform Agenda of the Basic Sectors which will be presented during the National Multi-Sectoral Peace and Development Assembly with President Duterte in June.
"The government may not be able to address all issues raised in this conference, but the administration is doing its best to win the trust of people," Bibar said.
Diñoso said the manifestation of support and consultation is a plus factor in the government's drive to eliminate the NPA.
"Our soldiers and policemen have been spending PHP5 billion to eliminate the NPA in a year in the region. That is the direct cost of insurgency. We could build more roads without the NPA," the army official added.
In the manifesto, participants pledged to support the provision of necessary government interventions to conflict-stricken communities.
The signing is one of the initiatives of the Eastern Visayas regional task force on ending local communist armed conflict (RTF-ELCAC) under the sectoral unification, capacity building, empowerment, and mobilization cluster.
The formation of the RTF-ELCAC operationalizes EO 70 issued by Duterte on Dec. 4, 2018. The directive also institutionalizes a “whole-of-nation approach” in attaining an inclusive and sustainable peace.
The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)