Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary and Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security Alfonso G. Cusi has commended the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) of Region IV-B for working out the surrender of more communist rebels at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
“These are concrete results of ELCAC-related activities that need to be sustained,” Cusi said during Thursday’s virtual meeting with officials of the group.
Cusi, however, reminded the group that the local government will not fully succeed in its goal to permanently quell unrest if land issues among indigenous peoples (IP) and their ancestral domains are not addressed properly. He said IP reportedly comprise about 70 percent of the New People’s Army or Communist Terrorist Groups.
The Regional Task Force’s efforts to deliver basic services and provide financial assistance will be in vain if IPs are persistently displaced from their ancestral lands, he warned.
Cusi also expressed his appreciation to the RTF-ELCAC in MIMAROPA (Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan) for declaring its support to Republic Act 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Law, which President Rodrigo Duterte recently signed.
“We must continue communicating its truth in the most empathic way and reach out to as many Filipinos as we can using language that breeds trust and security,” he said.
During the meeting, Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro Mayor Elgin Malauan presented the recently launched Sustainable Community Program (SCP), a pilot project that shall provide additional livelihood support to IP and former rebels using a 5-hectare lot is being allocated in his municipality. While another SCP is being established in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, the RTF-ELCAC MIMAROPA is working on replicating similar projects for other areas in the said region soon.
Meanwhile, Cusi underscored the importance of peace and order in attaining the economic targets of the region even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We must ensure the safety and security of MIMAROPA for businesses to thrive and for us to entice more investors to come in. Businesses, residents, and workers must be protected from coercion and exploitation. If we want more people to choose MIMAROPA over other provinces, we must uphold and protect our regional security,” he said.
Cusi said that local government units in the region should address the influx of people from urban areas, such as those from the “Balik Probinsya, Balik Pag-asa Program”; identify enough livelihood opportunities and economic activities for people in MIMAROPA to thrive; ensure the health and safety of the people, whether residing or relocating in the region; and ending local communist armed conflict.
The massive exodus of unemployed people in the urban areas to MIMAROPA could affect the socio-economy dynamics of region, according to Cusi.
Per the Balik Probinsya, Balik Pag-Asa Program website, 2,701 individuals applied to return to their provinces in MIMAROPA.