P5-M ‘peace center’ for ex-rebels eyed in Northern Samar

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) and the Northern Samar provincial government is eyeing to set up a center for the convergence and integration of all efforts related to anti-insurgency in the province. Imelda Bonifacio, OPAPRU regional program manager, said in an interview on Monday, that the center will serve as a repository of all provincial tasks to end local communist armed conflict documents, training venue for anti-insurgency related capacity development needs, and store all data on former rebels. OPAPRU has committed PHP5 million for the operation of the peace center early next year near the Department of the Interior and Local Government provincial office in Catarman town. 'We will equip the center with the staff and pool of resource persons capacitated to handle the training needs of our former rebels, families, and communities under the local peace engagement and transformation program,' Bonifacio said. The center, the first of its kind in Eastern Visayas, is a mechanism to ensure the effective and efficient implementation and continuous monitoring of the provincial government's local peace engagement and transformation program. 'Northern Samar is included in the national piloting among all other provinces primarily because of its readiness, programs in the Darangpan Center (halfway house for former rebels) are in place and funded locally by the provincial government under its local social integration program with complete facilities and staffing complement to really support the needs of former rebels,' Bonifacio added. The official noted there are several good practices and innovations in peacebuilding efforts in Northern Samar since 2015, fully supported by the province with local ordinances and appropriations passed. The project is crucial to the local government's efforts to prevent the New People's Army (NPA) from recovering cleared areas. Earlier, the Philippine Army reported that at least 237 NPA-influenced villages have been cleared and two remaining active guerilla fronts have been dismantled in the province. Despite this, vertical forces are still active and will continuously secure the cleared areas, according to the military.

Source: Philippines News Agency