PEACE IN BOHOL. Central Command Commander Major General Noel Clement speaks with former members of the New People's Army (NPA) in a peace and development forum in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Dec. 18, 2018. (Photo by the U7, Central Command)
CEBU CITY – More than 30 former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Bohol on Tuesday joined military and local government officials in a peace and development forum, Central Command (Centcom) acting chief Major Abel Potutan told the Philippine News Agency.
Centcom commander, Major General Noel Clement, Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto, and House Deputy Speaker Arthur Yap also joined the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) officials in handing over PHP15,000 livelihood assistance and reintegration assistance of PHP20,000 to each of the former communist rebels.
Potutan said the surrenderers participated in the general assembly of the Kauban sa Reporma/Former Rebels (KR/FR) and People’s Advocacy for Collaboration and Empowerment (PEACE) Inc. Bohol Chapter held at the Panda Tea Garden Suites in Tagbilaran City.
The former rebels said they decided to go back to the fold of the law due to unexplainable hardships in the mountain fighting for nothing. They underwent orientation about the administration's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) conducted by the provincial government.
In his inspirational message, Chatto told the returnees that the province’s progress is dependent on the peace and order situation.
“Walay kalambuan kun walay kalinaw (There is no progress if there is no peace),” he said.
The governor urged them to help the government and the people to achieve peace.
For his part, Centcom commander Clement told the former rebels that peace, good governance, and development are important aspects in ensuring long-lasting peace in Bohol.
Clement said the armed forces in the Visayas will not cease in its operations against armed groups, including the NPAs, who pose threat to the local peace and order.
Following the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte, Clement said the campaign against illegal drugs and other forms of criminalities have become part of their task in securing the people of the Visayas.
According to Clement, government officials could not serve well their constituents if armed groups continue to pose threats to a locality.
He added that development will not be possible if the rebel groups continue to challenge the local peace.
Deputy Speaker Yap, for his part, agreed that poverty continues to be a challenge in Bohol.
He, however said that the Duterte administration is totally different from previous administrations, as it has invested much in infrastructure projects which in effect would change the lives of the poor.
The representative of Bohol’s third district explained that in 2006, the poverty level of the province reached as high as 35 percent.
In 2010, Yap said, the poverty level of Bohol reached the highest rate of 51 percent.
“The government’s investment program on new infrastructure and irrigation projects, the current government is able to lower the poverty level to 21 percent,” he further claimed.
He said the farmers must get the necessary assistance on seeds and soil management in order to ensure their productivity.
He also said that investing in agriculture sector will help boost the tourism-based economy of the province.
“We have 1.3 million Boholanos. If we can feed two million more, it means that we can accommodate tourists with that number,” Yap said in Cebuano, adding that the growth in local tourism industry would surely uplift the lives of the poor. (PNA)
Photo by Ev Espiritu/Inquirer