Gina Lopez: No more NPAs if peace zones promoting social justice will be created

April 23, 2017 - 1:48 PM
Reuters file photo of DENR chief Gina Lopez

MANILA, Philippines – As members of the New People’s Army (NPA) reportedly staged an attack in one of the most visited natural attractions in Davao Oriental, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) chief Gina Lopez expressed optimism that the communist rebels would end their armed struggle if they would be given the chance to work with the government in promoting social justice through peace zones.

In a Facebook Live Q&A on Sunday, April 23, Lopez said there would no longer be communist rebels and fighting if peace zones in impoverished communities would be created and social justice – or the equitable distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges — would be ensured in these areas.

“I truly feel that the way for them to lay down their arms and the way to peace, I am confident without the slightest doubt is to create peace zones, wherein in these peace zones, everyone agrees, walang mag-aaway dito. ‘Yong military, ‘yong NPA, everyone…the police. In these zones, government would pour in money. I wanna pour in money, DENR, and create a paradise…in a shortest span of time,” the DENR chief said.

“Now if we can create a community there where the children can get food on the table, they (parents) can send their kids to college, they can have everything. Why will you fight?” she added.

Lopez said she knew how to create peace zones, citing her Ugong Rock Adventures travel and tourism project with residents of Brgy. Tagabinet in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

“And guess what, I know how to do it. I sobrang I know how to do it. In my communities in Puerto Princesa, I put in a million pesos and the communities are earning P30 million every year. And the barangay captain says, ‘Ma’am, lahat dito may trabaho dahil sa Ugong Rock. They have P5 million in the bank. They’ve helped another barangay, and another barangay, maski hindi yan barangay nila,” the DENR secretary said.

“Love is the way. Now if we can create that, there’ll be no NPA, you don’t need to fight,” she added.

Lopez said the NP leaders she had met were “amazing people” composed of former members of the clergy and the academe and ex-seminarians, who could have chosen not to go up the mountains and live a hard life.

“Why did they go there? Why? It’s because many of them during the Marcos dictatorship…were unhappy with what’s happening here. Hindi sila masaya [They were not happy].”

“Because they were not happy, they took up arms. What can they do? A corrupt government has the military…what can they do to fight the establishments?…So, in frustration, they went to the mountains and fought and lived very hard lives. Why? Because of love, actually. Because of love,” Lopez added.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the government-run Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported that NPA rebels had staged an attack in Davao Oriental’s Aliwagwag Falls in Cateel town at 4:30 a.m.

“No tourist was injured in the attack,” Captain Rhyan Batchar, chief information officer of the 10th Infantry (Agila) Division, said in a phone interview with the PNA.

Batchar said a team of 67th Infantry Battalion was assigned to the tourist spot to secure visitors. He said around 40 members the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Command staged the harassment.

A member of the 67th IB was wounded during the attack, but his name was withheld pending the notification to his family members, according to the military.

Batchar said the 67th IB team was able to defend their position while the NPAs withdrew northwest of Aliwagwag Falls.

The encounter lasted for almost an hour, he added.

“The place is secured right now. Pursuit operation is ongoing against the fleeing rebels,” said Batchar. -with reports from PNA