CAMP CAPINPIN, Tanay, Rizal – Amidst the lockdown to contain COVID-19, 13 former rebels received Php 688,000.00 worth of firearms remuneration under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP during a ceremony on Tuesday.

The formal handover was held at the Army’s 202nd Brigade headquarters in Cavinti, Laguna and was witnessed by key officials of the Provincial LGU.

Ms Maricar Palacol, the focal person of the Provincial Peace and Order Council, assured the people of Laguna that the Provincial Government’s resolve to deliver social services to their constituents will never waver even in the face of this virus which is currently the greatest threat to humanity.

In her speech, Ms Palacol conveyed Gov Ramil Hernandez’s call to the former rebels to “reach out to your former comrades and friends who are still members of the NPA to surrender, avail the grants provided by E-CLIP and join the people in our quest for just and lasting peace.”

According to Col Alex Rillera, Commander, 202nd Brigade which has operational jurisdiction over Laguna Province, although his unit is directly involved in containing the spread of COVID-19, they are continuously coordinating with concerned LGUs and government agencies to ensure that former rebels will receive the grants offered to them during the course of local peace negotiations.

According to the military, the 13 former rebels surrendered after turning over their firearms to government negotiators last year. They are among the 45 FRs who left the NPA during the terrorist group’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 2019.

Per the E-CLIP’s implementing guidelines, those who surrender firearms will receive remuneration, the amount of which will be double the prevailing market value of every serviceable firearm that will be determined by experts from the PNP.

Col Rillera added that “these financial assistance which they have just received are on top of the initial monetary benefits that were granted to them last September during the declaration of Laguna as a province with stable internal peace and security or SIPS.”

“The government’s ability to deliver on its promises, despite the ongoing national and global crisis, is a manifestation of the government’s sincerity to forge peace and usher progress and development”, ended Col Rillera.

Under the E-CLIP, a former rebel can receive up to Php 700,000.00 worth of benefits which include immediate and livelihood assistance and additional compensations in the form of educational, health services, employment and housing benefits among others.

Major General Arnulfo Marcelo B Burgos Jr, Commander of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division which covers Southern Tagalog, lauded the Provincial Task Force ELCAC’s concerted effort at all levels in pursuing President Duterte’s directive to end local communist armed conflict despite the health crisis brought about by COVID-19.

Maj Gen Burgos added that “the headways which the people are gaining in our fight against insurgency is a testament to our people’s yearning and aspirations for peace, prosperity and development which shall overcome gargantuan challenges, including the threat of this global pandemic.”

He also commended every soldier’s exemplary performance, commitment and dedication as they lead the Filipino people’s current fight in two different fronts, insurgency and Corona Virus, while assuring the nation that they will remain steadfast in their mandate to serve the people and secure Southern Tagalog.

He ended his statement by reiterating his appeal to the few remaining NPA Terrorists “to lay down your arms, spend your time in peace with your families and be part of the solution to the problems which our beloved country and people are facing particularly during these very challenging times.”

Since the implementation of E-CLIP, 466 former rebels surrendered 93 firearms to government forces deployed across Southern Tagalog.

As of this writing, CALABARZON region and MIMARO provinces have distributed a total of Php 9.79 million-worth of financial assistance to former rebels.