MANILA – Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi likened the national government’s commitment to end local communist armed conflict to biking, noting that they are both steadfast in their reaching their goals.
Cusi, who is also Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) in Region 4-B (Mimaropa), made this statement during a virtual meeting on the nationwide cycling event "Bike for Justice and Peace" on Saturday.
“Bicycles have always been a symbol of progress and liberty. The Bike for Peace symbolizes the moving forward of the victims of armed violence, the reintegration and building back better lives of former rebels, and the pressing forward of the Mimaropa Regional Task Force (RTF) towards a safe, comfortable, and deeply rooted life and hope for every Filipino,” Cusi said in a speech read by Energy Undersecretary Alexander Lopez.
Cusi said the government has already initiated projects that provide assistance to and support former rebels, indigenous peoples, and families affected by armed conflict.
He, however, noted that much has yet to be accomplished in the government’s anti-insurgency efforts.
“Our commitment to end local communist armed conflict is likened to biking. As the bikers stay focused on the destination, let us keep our sights on the vision of sustainable peace and development,” he added. “As the bikers hold on to the handles of their bicycles, let us stir our lives without fear and, as bikers look around them, let us watch each other’s back as we journey together towards lasting peace and development in Mimaropa.”
He also condemned the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA) for detonating a land mine that killed college football player Kieth Absalon and his cousin Nolven Absalon last month.
“Despite admitting the crime and violation of the laws of war, the CPP-NPA refuses to turn over the communist armed unit, or the members of their organization, responsible for the crime. This atrocious act only proves that the CPP-NPA does not value lives and that civilians, innocent as they are and unarmed, do not matter to them,” he said.
Cusi described the killing of Absalon and his cousin as “absolutely unthinkable, inhuman, and very revolting”, adding that land mines are the major causes of death of civilians affected by armed conflict in the Philippines.
He said the “sweetest justice” that can be given to the victims of armed violence is to live the rest of their lives “successfully, freely, and happily”.
“You and I, every one of us, can help bring justice by ensuring that the vulnerable and marginalized feel safe, are fed and have enough food, can access potable water and basic services such as healthcare and education, and enjoy the freedom to live their lives the way they choose to live,” he said.
He also expressed confidence that the CPP-NPA will become more irrelevant as the youth, farmers, fisherfolks, laborers, women, and the indigenous peoples become more aware and empowered.
“Together, we can change the narrative by refocusing our energies to pursue and embrace peace and development,” he added.
Absalon, 21, was cycling with a group that included his 40-year-old cousin, Nolven, when an anti-personnel mine exploded by the roadside in Masbate City on June 6.
Nolven's 16-year-old son sustained injuries.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)