President Rodrigo Duterte announced on March 18, 2021, the distribution of 2,234 hectares of land to former rebels in Eastern Visayas as part of the government’s effort to end the five-decade insurgency.
The distribution enforces the Chief Executive’s order to the Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones to fast-track land distribution as a counter-insurgency measure in the provinces.
Duterte said more than 1,500 former rebels in Leyte and Samar provinces are entitled to receive their certificate of land ownership from DAR to help them become more productive.
“I asked DAR to distribute lands even those reserve areas owned by the government. We want the poor to benefit from land reform. This is something that the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) cannot give,” Duterte told former rebels and government officials like the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) members gathered at the Summit Hotel here.
“More than 50 years ago, CPP founder Joma Sison has talked about land reform and until now he has not awarded even a hectare of land to the poor. They cannot even provide a typewriter or photocopy machine,” the President added.
He directed the Department of Agriculture to provide seedlings to new landowners and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to train former rebels on-farm production.
During the meeting, Duterte also leads the regional launch of the Barangay Development Program (BDP), a nationwide banner program to provide socio-economic development programs such as livelihood, health stations, school buildings, rural electrification, and farm-to-market roads for areas cleared of communist insurgency.
The NTF-ELCAC meeting also discussed the most recent accomplishments of the task force in Eastern Visayas, alongside topics such as the socio-economic overview and security situation in the region.
On December 4, 2018, the President issued Executive Order No. 70 creating the NTF-ELCAC and institutionalized a whole-of-nation approach towards obtaining sustainable peace in the hopes of putting an end to more than 50 years of local communist insurgency.
The NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (Sarwell Meniano, PNA)