SHIELDING IP YOUTHS. Some 55 youths from the different indigenous people (IP) communities in Las Nieves town, Agusan del Norte province join the three-day IP Awareness Program that started Friday (Aug. 26, 2022). The program aims to protect the IP youths from the deception and recruitment of the New People’s Army. (Photo courtesy of Las Nieves MIO)

BUTUAN CITY – Some 55 youths from indigenous people (IPs) communities in Las Nieves town in Agusan del Norte province joined Friday a three-day program aimed at exposing them to the various government programs and services.

In a statement, the Municipal Information Office (MIO) of Las Nieves said the program is a joint venture of the local government, the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion (23IB), and other  government line agencies.

“The participants will also undergo sessions to identify their vital roles in the government’s efforts to end the insurgency in the town,” the MIO said.

It noted that the IP youths are among the vulnerable sectors to the deception and recruitment of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

During the program launch, Las Nieves Vice Mayor Virgilio Escasiña Jr. emphasized the importance of close working relationships between the IP communities, especially the youth and the LGU.

“The LGU of Las Nieves, under the leadership of Mayor Karen Rosales, is giving weight to the welfare of the youth, especially in our IP communities,” he said.

1Lt. Bench Kevin Ormilla, who represented 23IB commander Lt. Col. Jeffrey Balingao, said shielding the IP youths from the recruitment of the NPA involves a massive information drive on the services being provided by the government to the IP communities.

“Through this three-day program, we will help you understand how the government works in providing help to our IP communities,” he said.

Director Rey Cueva, of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in Agusan del Norte, who joined the program opening, said the activity will also help the IP youth determine their abilities that can be improved through the different livelihood skills training and programs of the agency.

Other agencies supporting the undertaking are the National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples, the Las Nieves Youth for Peace Movement, the Agusan del Norte Social Welfare and Development Office, and the Las Nieves Municipal Police Station.

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.

The National Democratic Front was formally designated as a terrorist organization by the Anti-Terrorism Council on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA created in April 1973. (PNA)