President Rodrigo Roa Duterte wants the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to hasten land distribution in areas that remain hotbeds for communist insurgency to eliminate the rebels’ influence.
In his message in Cagayan de Oro City during the Joint National Task Force (NTF)-Regional Task Force (RTF) to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) Region 10, President Duterte said 450,000 hectares of land are up for distribution, based on the report of Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones.
“I hope that you will be able to distribute it before my term ends. Something to do, leave behind. Thank you. I will give away all 400,000 (hectares),” the President said.
So far, the government has distributed more than 2,100 hectares in the Northern Mindanao region alone. It has been the President’s policy to give away all government-owned lands that have been idle for decades.
Apart from land, farmer beneficiaries should also receive fertilizer and seedlings from the government, the President said, expressing his willingness to spend money for the program.
The chief executive also made renewed offer to the rebels for a local peace dialogue. “This is my request from you: to go down here so we can talk. Do you want us to talk in the mountains? I will be the one to go up there.”
“I’m used to having dialogues with you, right? I’m used to that. If you want me to go there alone, then we can talk there. But you should swear on your honor that I go up there alive and come back down alive. Let’s talk.”
The Duterte government abandoned the peace talks with the communist movement after it insisted on a coalition government, which, according to the President, is non-negotiable.
And for those who want to return to the fold of the law, President Duterte said his government is ready to provide them with shelter and livelihood. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will extend skills training to rebel returnees for them to secure well-paying jobs.
“For those who do not want war, those who understand what’s wrong and right, you know that we will know if what you did was right or wrong, we will still welcome you,” he told the rebels.
“I’ll give you a house and a job. And while you don’t have a job, I’ll give you rice. I’ll also find a job for your wife. TESDA is there,” he added. PND