REBEL RETURNEES. Officials from the Department of Labor and Employment  and the Apayao provincial government lead the awarding of livelihood assistance to members of the disadvantaged sector as well as former members of the New People's Army on Tuesday (May 9, 2023). The awarding ceremony was held at the EKB Memorial Sports Gymnasium in Luna, Apayao. (Photo courtesy of Jc Marquez-Apayao PIO)

LAOAG CITY — Twenty-five former members of the New People's Army (NPA) in the landlocked province of Apayao got a second chance at life with a provision of livelihood assistance from the government.

Jane Adalan, provincial director of the Department of Labor and Employment, on Wednesday said a total of PHP3.4 million worth of livelihood assistance was awarded to former rebels including various famers' associations, and persons with disabilities on May 9 to help them start their own business or continue an existing one.

“The checks and packages worth PHP3.4 million benefited 25 former rebels, seven PWDs, two solo parents, 18 regular individual beneficiaries, and four community associations,” she said in a media interview.

As part of the provincial government’s effort to promote peace and stability in the province, Gov. Elias Bulut Jr. said his administration continues to address insurgency problems through livelihood assistance to the needy.

“One of our 10-point agenda is to expand welfare services and part of it is to have a sustainable livelihood programs for the poor, disadvantaged, and vulnerable sectors,” he said in an earlier statement.

He added that all returning members of the NPA who are willing to reintegrate themselves into mainstream society are welcome and will receive PHP20,000 in financial assistance for reintegration plus a provision of small income-generating project of their choice.

“We continue to address the concerns of the people, particularly in the former stronghold of the NPA, where the issue of livelihood assistance has been the foremost concern,” Bulut said.

The awarding of cash assistance is part of the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), which provides support to former rebels who have surrendered and are undergoing the process of reintegration.   

Apayao used to be a stronghold of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in the 1980s and early 1990s, particularly in Marag Valley in Luna town where it used to be their campsite.

But with the government’s continuing peace advocacy and development intervention such as the building of road networks and various infrastructure projects, Marag is now a well-known eco-tourism site in the province, giving a steady source of income to various tourism stakeholders in the area. (PNA)