MANILA, Philippines – To others, they are enemies. But to Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez, the New Peoples’ Army is composed of NPAs – nice people around.
Thus the DENR chief wants to work with members of the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines through projects that she hoped would bring peace and development in mining communities in Mindanao.
On Wednesday, during a business forum in Pasay City, Lopez said she had already asked permission from President Rodrigo Duterte to work with communist rebels in improving productivity and solving poverty in mining communities in Agusan del Norte province, where NPA units were based.
“There are NPAs there. I asked the President, ‘Sir, it is okay if I’ll work with the NPA?”
Lopez said the DENR, with the NPA’s help, would bankroll projects in Agusan mining areas through the mining firms’ Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds.
“Because right now, mining doesn’t have a good economic impact on areas. But if I help them use their SDMP or CSR funds in the entire area, they’re gonna come out smelling roses. They have so much money every year almost 100 million,” the DENR chief said.
“If the objective is to use that money and alleviate poverty everywhere, it can’t be done if there’s fighting. There has to be peace,” added Lopez.
She said that if peace could be achieved involving communist rebels and this would result addressing poverty once and for all, then there would no longer be need for an armed struggle.
“If thru peace we engineer an economy where there’s zero poverty there, di ba, why will you fight?”
Lopez said NPA rebels were “really nice if you meet them.”
“What I’ve seen with the NPA, they just really want to get people out of poverty, they’re really not bad people,” she added.
Asked how clear was her talk with the communist rebels, the DENR chief said it was “concrete” and that she had already discussed her plan with the top brass of the NPA.
“I don’t believe in terrorism. What I wanna do is work together with them for the community so we can bring on peace…Why do they need terrorist activities if we can bring peace?” Lopez said.
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