MANILA, Philippines – Over 2,500 former communist rebels were given various financial and livelihood assistance amounting to P65.62 million by the government in 2009, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said.
Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process Annabelle Abaya said the government’s Social Integration Program (SIP) “has proven to be the most effective counter-insurgency weapon without guns and bullets, attracting 2,506 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels to surrender in 2009 to avail of the government’s livelihood scheme.”
She said the livelihood programs will be intensified in 2010 to complement President Arroyo’s Beat-the-Odds program of terminating the twin insurgencies waged by NPA rebels and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) before she steps down from office on June 30, 2010.
Of the figure, 1,466 were rebels who surrendered in the past but were not given assistance by the previous government.
The SIP is being implemented by the OPAPP. Under the livelihood program, each former rebel gets P20,000 in immediate cash assistance to sustain him and his family as they return to mainstream society.
If a rebel surrenders his M16 or M14 assault rifle, he or she gets an additional P50,000.
Since the program was launched in 2008, 330 high-powered firearms were yielded by NPA rebels to the Armed Forces.
A former rebel may also avail of goods in the amount of P50,000 to operate a sari-sari store or acquire farm implements such as a hand tractor or working animals or become a tricycle operator, an OPAPP statement said.
NPA rebel returnees who have availed of the SIP scheme came from the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya in Region 2; Abra, Apayao, and Kalinga in Cordillera region; Bataan, Bulacan, Tarlac, and Zambales in Region 3; Laguna and Quezon in Region 4-A; Negros Occidental in Region 6; Bohol and Negros Oriental in Region 7; Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, and Western Samar in Region 8; Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur in Region 9; Misamis Oriental and Misamis Occidental in Region 10; Sarangani in Region 12; and Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, and Butuan in the Caraga region.
“To ensure the success of the program, OPAPP established 25 Local Social Integration Committees (LSICs) all over the country, while 15 more LSICs are being organized,” the OPAPP said. – Paolo Romero, Jose Rodel Clapano