Google map of Bukidnon province.

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – A leader of the indigenous peoples (IPs) in Bukidnon has urged other tribal communities to lead in severing ties with the communist rebels.

In a statement by the Army's 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) on Monday, Higaonon tribal leader Datu Cristoto Lailay Jr. said military efforts should be complemented by the participation of tribal communities to sustain the government's anti-insurgency campaign.

Lailay said the atrocities of the New People’s Army (NPA) on tribal communities will not stop if the tribal communities themselves refuse to cooperate with state forces.

"Soldiers are there as support, but the solution to this problem is us as (IP) leaders. We are the main effort and we should learn to stand up and fight for our community from the NPA," he was quoted in the vernacular as saying.

No development will come to ancestral lands, he said, if IP leaders do not take the initiative to "stand up and be firm" against the NPA.

"We will not allow our children and grandchildren to experience the struggles we have right now due to fear," he said.

On Sept. 30, Lailay and other IP leaders in Bukidnon declared they were breaking ties with the NPA, as well as its political organizations, the Communist Party of the Philippines, and the National Democratic Front.

Their declaration was facilitated on Sept. 30 by the 8IB and the municipality of Malaybalay City in Sitio Bendum, Barangay Busdi, in line with the observance of IP Month this October.

The activity in Malaybalay City, facilitated by the 8IB, was marked with the signing of the “wall of commitment” symbolizing the tribal communities' sincerity in embracing the government back and rejecting the communist rebel movement.

Roylan Orquia, the city’s chair of the Peace and Order Council, noted that vulnerable tribal communities are targeted by NPA for recruitment and harassment.

Orquia said this is why a sizable portion of NPA units in Bukidnon come from IPs.

Cutting ties with communist rebels and its allied entities, he said, is the first step "towards lasting peace." (PNA)