After laying down their arms, rebel returnees in Western Visayas are now ready to take on new roles as earth savers.
The rebel returnees, who once were regulars of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade-Tabara Paduano Group (RPMP-RPA-ABB-TPG), have been tapped by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for reforestation activities under the Aquino administration’s National Greening Program (NGP).
DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje said the former rebels, who now have organized themselves into a legitimate group known as “Kapatiran Para sa Progresibong Panlipunan (KAPATIRAN),” have agreed to reforest some 100 hectares of forest land in Barangay Locotan, Kabankalan City, starting this year up to 2016.
He said the DENR-Kapatiran deal forms part of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA), a government peace and development program and framework aiming to reduce poverty, improve governance and empower communities through community-driven projects that address people’s needs while promoting peace.
“The NGP and the PAMANA are working toward a common goal and that is to reduce poverty. Allowing these rebel returnees to take part in the NGP would help them lead a normal life and earn a living,” Paje said.
In April last year, some 700 former RPMP-RPA-ABB-TPG combatants formed themselves into a legitimate socio-economic and political organization under KAPATIRAN in keeping with the requirements of the peace agreement which it signed in 2002.
DENR Region 6 Executive Director Jim Sampulna said it was Paje’s initiative that the provision of forestry-based livelihood activities be made available to KAPATIRAN members as part of the strategy of PAMANA to support former and current rebels who desire to integrate into communities and be transformed into productive citizens.
“Grassroots actions in conflict areas greatly contribute to the overall peacemaking efforts of the national government,” Sampulna said.
According to him, more rebels would soon avail themselves of the PAMANA program, which aims to help former insurgents live peaceful and productive lives.
“Just think of the goodwill this project can generate between both sides, and the peace it can spawn particularly for us here in Western Visayas,” Sampulna said, noting that the agreement would contribute to building confidence and trust between the government and KAPATIRAN.
Under its agreement with DENR, KAPATIRAN shall produce and plant some 55,000 seedlings in the first year with a stock density of 500 seedlings per hectare, and maintain and protect the plantation its members have established for the succeeding years.
KAPATIRAN members are also tasked to conduct foot patrol and establish firebreaks in designated NGP planting sites.
The DENR has earmarked P1.45 million for the three-year program, which will be released in three tranches.
NGP is a flagship reforestation program of the Aquino administration, which seeks to cover 1.5 million hectares of forest lands with trees for a period of six years, ending in 2016. It is also a national effort that aims to address food security, poverty reduction, environmental stability, biodiversity conservation and a mechanism for climate change mitigation strategy to enhance the country’s forest stock to absorb carbon dioxide. #