BUTUAN CITY – At least 531 former fighters of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the Caraga Region received some PHP10.6 million worth of livelihood grants from the regional Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD-13) office this year.
In a statement Thursday, DSWD-13 said the grants were distributed under the agency’s Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP).
Data provided by the agency indicated that 188 former rebels from Agusan del Sur got PHP3.8 million in livelihood cash aid this year, while 162 ex-combatants benefited from the PHP3.2 million assistance in Surigao del Sur.
Other program beneficiaries are the 160 former rebels from Agusan del Norte with a PHP3.2 million grant, and 21 others in Surigao del Norte got PHP42,000 in aid.
The latest distribution of SLP assistance this year was held in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur, on Dec. 14 where 73 ex-guerillas got PHP1.5 million in financial grants.
Among the beneficiaries was alias Jim, who spent more than three years of his life fighting the government under the NPA organization.
“The three years I spent with the communist movement was useless. It contributed nothing to myself and my family,” Jim said in the vernacular during an interview.
Jim said he decided to return to his family mid-last year as he worried about his family, especially his two children, amid the threats of the pandemic.
“Our leaders refused to allow me to go home. I asked them about their plans for our families, especially during the pandemic, but they have no plan for us,” he said.
Jim said he will use the PHP20,000 assistance he received to improve his farm in one of the communities in Surigao del Sur.
Another beneficiary, alias Arlo, 37, of Agusan del Norte said he received his livelihood assistance earlier this year.
“Now my family is benefiting from the livelihood venture I’ve been to for more than four months now,” he said.
Aside from his store, Arlo said he is also making money from electrical repairs because of the training he got from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
“My life is productive now. I hope my former comrades who are still roaming around the mountains disturbing the communities will open their eyes and leave the movement,” he said.
Under the SLP, the former rebels are assisted to increase their capabilities and productivity through different livelihood activities in their communities.
After surrendering, the recipients underwent various capability-building activities through training programs provided by different government agencies and local government units. (PNA)