Friday, February 19, 2010

Defense boss presides over turnover of rowhouses worth P6-M to former Bohol rebels

Defense boss presides over turnover of rowhouses worth P6-M to former Bohol rebels

FORMER rebels, now Kauban sa Reporma (KRs) or comrades in reform in Bohol stand to get their own houses, homelots and farmlots with the launching Thursday of the Kalayaan Resettlement Center in Brgy. Remedios, Danao, Bohol.

Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, Undersecretary Danilo Encinas of the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process, Major Cristobal J.P. Perez of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS), Gov. Erico Aumentado and top military and police officials led launching rites for the 25-unit rowhouse costing P6 million.

Fifteen members of the Bohol Composite Farmers Association led by former New People's Army (NPA) strategist circa '70s and '80s Epitacio Ramirez who went by the nom de guerre "Kumander Vargas", and 10 other farmers who already live in the area will occupy the units.


The project is a product of Aumentado's signature convergence strategy. For the purpose, he leveraged P1.5 million from the provincial coffers to magnet P3 million from the Office of the President-President's Social Fund (OP-PSF) and another P1.5 million from Opapp.

The Engineer Support Battalion (ESBn) under Lt. Col. Ramon Evan Ruiz based in Brgy. Macaas in Tubigon town will build the rowhouses. The battalion is already a veteran of many school building projects of Aumentado and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, as well as the Department of Education (DepEd).

The homelots and farmlots are on a sprawling 50-hectare area made available by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The Bohol Poverty Reduction Management Office (BPRMO) and the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) will provide technical assistance in growing oil palm or jatropha as well as seeds or planting materials for vegetables and other high value cash crops that can be planted between rows while the main crops are still young and unproductive.

On the other hand, the Office of the Provincial Veterinarian (OPV) has an ongoing livestock dispersal program that the new Remedios settlers can also avail of. That same day, Dr. Stella Marie Lapiz, OPV head, had asked Aumentado to lead the passing-on-the gift ceremony for 11 heads of carabaos and more goats to their new owners during the civic action at the Remedios barangay hall. These are offspring of animals given to first round beneficiaries.

Remedios is only around three kilometers from Danao town proper.

SND's message

Gonzales said through all these years that he and Aumentado have joined forces to address the decades-old insurgency problem, Bohol has always pushed ahead earlier of the other provinces.

Being one of the most successful provinces in addressing insurgency, he said the Bohol experience should be replicated in the rest of the country.

He noted that in another first – Aumentado who also chairs the Bohol Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC), Chief Supt. Lani-o Nerez, Central Visayas regional police director and Maj. Gen. Arthur Tabaquero, commander of the Philippine Army's 8th Infantry Division based in Samar signed a joint resolution declaring Bohol insurgency-free.

Where the Government of the Philippines (GOP) and Communist Party of the Philippines leader Jose Ma. Sison have not been very successful, Aumentado has succeeded, Gonzales said, referring to the peace talks in Utrecht that have now stalled.

While Norway, the third party that has been giving support for the talks to continue is now apparently at a loss as to what to do next, Aumentado has found the key – talk to everyone interested and come up with a solution acceptable by all stakeholders: the Kalayaan Resettlement Center in Bohol's case.

Vice Gov. Julius Caesar Herrera, Col. Alan Luga, commander of the 802nd Brigade, Sr. Supt. Anthony Obenza, Bohol police provincial director, Maj. Gen. Ralph Villanueva of the Central Command and Gonzales signed as witnesses.

With Bohol already insurgency-free and therefore "cleared", Aumentado, Tabaquero and Nerez also signed a memorandum of agreement transferring the active role in internal security operations (ISO) from the military to the police pursuant to the National Internal Security Plan (NISP) crafted by the National Security Council that President Arroyo has approved – for the "hold" phase.

The MOA also specified that the Bohol PPOC will take the lead in the "consolidation" and on to the "development" phases.

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