AID TO EX-REBELS. Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. leads the distribution of Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) assistance to 199 former rebels in a ceremony on Oct. 5, 2022, in Patin-ay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur. Each former rebel received immediate livelihood assistance, as well as aid for their reintegration from E-CLIP program. (PNA photo by Alexander Lopez)

PROSPERIDAD, Agusan del Sur – At least 199 former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels pledged allegiance to the government and received financial assistance in a ceremony at the provincial capitol here Wednesday.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. led the distribution of assistance to the former NPA rebels, together with the region's provincial governors and local officials.

Of the 199 NPA surrenderers who received assistance under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), 169 came from Agusan del Sur; Surigao del Norte, 24; Agusan del Norte, four; Butuan City, two.

Each former rebel received PHP15,000 in immediate assistance, PHP50,000 as livelihood aid, and PHP21,000 for their integration into their families and communities.

The surrenderers from Agusan del Sur also turned over 50 high-powered firearms and 13 short firearms which were remunerated through the E-CLIP, the amounts of which depended on the calibers of the surrendered firearms.

In his message, Abalos welcomed back to the mainstream society the former rebels, even as he assured them of the continuing support of the government for their recovery.

“The government, under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is ready to listen and respond to your needs. We are assuring you that you made the right decision to surrender and return to the government,” Abalos said.

He also told the former rebels to always ensure the future of their families, especially the children.

“Loloy”, a recipient of the E-CLIP aid, has acknowledged the government for the new opportunities he received.

“I was right when I decided to leave the communist organization and go back to the government,” he said in the vernacular during an interview with reporters on the sidelines of the event.

He said the cash aid will help him rebuild his life and family, as he is eager to return peacefully to their community.

In a report during the ceremony, the DILG-Caraga (Region13) said the high number of NPA surrenders in the region is the result of the intensified whole-of-nation approach to end local communist armed conflict.

The region, it said, received a total of PHP3.8 billion in projects under the Barangay Development Program (BDP) last year.

Of the total BDP budget, PHP720 million was allocated to Agusan del Sur comprising 69 projects, nine of which were completed this year.

Since 2018, the DILG-13 said some 1,465 former rebels have availed of financial and livelihood support from the E-CLIP program amounting to PHP133 million.

Five halfway houses were also established in Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and Butuan City which are used by former rebels as they undergo processes before their actual reintegration.

Each of the halfway houses has a budget of PHP5 million, the DILG-13 said. (PNA)