COTABATO CITY – Tribal leaders in the Sultan Kudarat town of Kalamansig have denounced the presence of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in their communities.
During a dialogue with military and local officials Friday, leaders of the indigenous peoples (IPs) from the villages of Ginalaan and Nalilidan said they want to attain peace in their tribal lands by eradicating the influence of communist rebels in Kalamansig.
Led by the Municipal Task Force (MTF) to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC), the dialogue was attended by tribal leaders under Indigenous Political Structure (IPS) and Indigenous People Mandatory Representatives (IPMRs) of the Dulangan-Manobo tribe.
The Army’s 37th Infantry Battalion (IB) led by acting commander Lt. Col. Allen Van Estrera, and Capt. Sanny Lorenzo, a company commander stationed in Kalamansig, also attended the meeting.
“The gathering primarily aims to solicit the commitment of tribal leaders in denouncing the NPAs in their communities, and encourage their support towards the government’s thrust in peace and sustainable economic development in Kalamansig,” Lorenzo said in a statement on Saturday.
Lorenzo noted that in the past several years, the Manobo-Dulangan tribe has been a victim of aggressive recruitment by the NPA.
During the meeting, he said government officials assured that livelihood packages and other incentives under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) will be provided to rebel returnees.
Meanwhile, the tribe also sought government help in resolving local ancestral land issues, with some elders saying land conflict remains one of the root causes of insurgency in the upland areas.
Mateg Delag, one of the Manobo leaders, assured the tribe will cooperate with the government to bring lasting peace in their ancestral lands.
“We do not want the NPAs in our lands anymore,” Delag said.
The NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)