Army to build halfway houses, farms for ex-NPAs in ZamboSur

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PAGADIAN CITY, Zamboanga del Sur — Halfway houses and farms are set to be developed on a 19.5-hectare land of the provincial government for the “From Arms to Farms” project.

Intended for former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, the project is a joint undertaking of the provincial government, Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion, and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The half-way houses and farms will be located at the back of Camp David Sabido that houses the Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion headquarters in Guipos town. 

This, after an agreement was signed Friday by Zamboanga del Sur Governor Antonio Cerilles and Lt. Col. Marlowe Patria, Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion commander.

Department of National Defense (DND) Undersecretary Reynaldo Mapagu, the chairperson of the Task Force Balik Loob, witnessed the signing of the agreement. 

In his speech, Mapagu noted that insurgency has been contributing to the deterioration of peace and order in the countryside.

“This should be ended, with the unity of each Filipino,” Mapagu said. 

“We converge for a common goal that is peace and development,” said Mapagu, adding that “former rebels are also victims as they were deceived”.

PHP5-million budget 

Patria said the half-way houses and its facilities are worth PHP5 million, funded by the DILG through the Task Force Balik Loob. 

The houses will serve as temporary shelter for surrenderers before they return to their communities. It will also become a venue for livelihood education and processing of the former rebels.

In his speech, Cerilles told the former rebels to strive and learn good farming methods as well as avail of scholarships under the state colleges in this province. 

Changing lives

Brig. Gen. Roberto Ancan, the Army’s 1st Infantry Division and Joint Task Force Zampelan commander, said the activities in the halfway house will help former NPAs recuperate from the “bad experiences they’ve encountered at the hands of the NPA”.

Ancan also called for the remaining NPAs in the mountains to come down and take advantage of the Enhanced Comprehensive Localized Integration Program (E-CLIP).

“We will also ensure their safety and well-being and assist them together with other stakeholders for them to become productive Filipino citizen,” he said. 

Financial assistance 

After the groundbreaking of the project Friday, 43 former rebels received PHP2.75-million financial assistance from E-CLIP and firearms remuneration from the DILG. 

Each surrenderer received PHP65,000 as livelihood and emergency assistance while those who surrendered firearms received additional cash as remuneration. (PNA)

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