Shifts from armed group to socio-economic organization
AFTER nine months of dialogue, the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) finally signed this week a closure pact with the Government of the Philippines ending almost a quarter century of hostilities in Nothern Luzon, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process reported.
Witnessed by President Benigno S. Aquino III, the closure pact was signed by CPLA Chairman Arsenio Humiding and Marcelina Bahatan, president of the Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA), CPLA’s political wing, on behalf of the erstwhile rebel group. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles represented the government as its signatory.
Others who signed the closure agreement were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia Jr., Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon J. Soliman, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Brawner Baguilat (LP), and Apayao Governor Elias C. Bulut Jr. (NPC).
Local government officials from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), CPLA zone commanders, and officers of the CBA also witnessed the historic event.
Established in 1986, the CPLC as a splinter group of the New People’s Army, is now committed in their transformation into a socio-economic organization to advance peace and development in Cordilleran communities.
“From an armed group, we will now be a potent force that will drive development and economic growth in our communities,” Humiding said.
The closure agreement provides for community-identified projects, livelihood and employment support for CPLA members, sub-regional development projects, legacy documentation and final disposition of arms and forces, all leading towards the group’s development into an unarmed, socio-economic organization.
Deles said that while the government pursues peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front, the event will draw attention to the present administration’s efforts to end all armed conflicts before 2016.
“This is highly symbolic considering that the peace process with the CPLA started under the administration of President Cory Aquino,” Deles said.
The peace adviser is optimistic that the agreement will help promote development in CAR. “This would make it easier for us to facilitate support from all stakeholders, including the civil society groups, the private sectors, the local government units, and the donor communities,” she added.
On the disposition of arms and forces of 1,200 CPLA members, she said that both parties will pursue a process that will be mutually agreed upon. This will involve an integration program with possible employment in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as forest guards or ranges or other government agencies in need of personnel. Qualified members may also be integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
For his part, President Aquino in his speech said, “Nagbubukas po ng bagong pinto ang kasunduang ito: ngayon, mabibigyan na natin ng malinaw na proposisyon ang CPLA upang makibahagi sa pagbabago at sa pagsusulong sa ekonomiya ng bansa; bubukas na ang pinto upang maging isang ganap nang organisasyon ang CPLA at tunay na kabahagi ng lipunan.”
Aside from the goal of reaching a just and peaceful settlement with armed groups, a complimentary developmental track has also been put up by the government. The Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Peaceful and Resilient Communities) or PAMANA program serves to help win the peace in various communities nationwide through livelihood projects and technical assistance initiatives.
“There are seven PAMANA zones, and one of them is in the Cordilleras. PAMANA will assist the CPLA in their plans of achieving security and development in the area,” Deles said.
With the closure agreement with the CPLA and with the PAMANA initiatives in CAR, the region is well on its way to a prosperous start with combined efforts of the government and the different communities in the area.