P2.6-M aid released to ex-NPA rebels in Soccsksargen

P2.6-M aid released to ex-NPA rebels in Soccsksargen

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Region 12 (Soccsksargen) released around PHP2.6 million in socio-economic and welfare assistance last year to former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels under a convergence initiative aimed to “end local communist armed conflict.”

Cezario Joel Espejo, DSWD-Region 12 director, said Thursday they served a total of 758 rebel returnees from parts of the region through various assistance programs and services that were also implemented in support of the government’s enhanced reintegration program.

He said the former rebels mainly received financial assistance, food packs and other related interventions.

“These were intended to sustain the basic needs of the former rebels and their families in the wake of the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic,” he said in a report.

Data released by the agency said 466 of the beneficiaries received outright cash allowances, 168 were given family food packs, 83 were included in the social amelioration program and 41 availed of assistance under its crisis intervention unit.

Espejo said they will continue their partnerships this year with local government units, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and other government agencies to deliver more services to former rebels and their communities.

He cited the rollout of the convergence initiatives in support of the national government’s “whole-of-nation” approach to end the communist insurgency as stated in President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70.

DSWD-12 is among the key government agencies involved in the Region 12 Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

The task force is mandated to “prioritize and harmonize the delivery of basic services and social development packages in conflict-affected areas and vulnerable communities, facilitate societal inclusivity and ensure active participation of all sectors of society in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda.”

Datu Saber, 49, one of the beneficiaries from Arakan town in North Cotabato, said his inclusion into the agency’s assistance programs was a huge help for his family.

The former rebel, who was reportedly with the NPA for 24 years, received cash assistance of PHP2,900 in February last year through the DSWD-12’s cash-for-work program.

He thanked the government for reaching out to them and providing them with basic social services.

“I hope our government will continue to support us in terms of education for our next generation because this is what we need right now,” he added. (PNA

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