CATBALOGAN CITY, Samar -- The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) is eyeing a minimum of P250-million budget next year to build roads in conflict-stricken areas in the country.
Secretary Jesus Dureza said the office may get higher budget than the proposed amount with the inclusion of integrated development plan formulated by the local government units and submitted to President Rodrigo Duterte.
The proposal is higher than the P200-million funding this year for road projects under "Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana)," the National Government’s convergence program that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities, ensuring that they are not left behind.
“Pamana is our instrument in bringing peace assistance in responding to the needs especially on development of conflict-affected areas,” Dureza told reporters during a press briefing inside an Army camp here Monday, September 25.
Dureza was in the city for the peace caravan dialogue in relation to "Peace Month" celebration.
During the dialogue, Dureza has expressed concern over reports that some projects in Samar provinces have been delayed as New People’s Army (NPA) reportedly threatened construction workers and attempted to collect revolutionary taxes from contractors.
“I am here also to look into how this problem can be addressed. Rebels must remember that Pamana projects are not for the government, but for the people. If the NPA are also for the people, they should not be an obstacle of these projects,” Dureza said.
In Samar Island, road projects have been implemented in conflict-affected towns of Matuguinao and San Jose de Buan in Samar province, Maslog and Jipapad in Eastern Samar, and Lope de Vega and Silvino Lobos in Northern Samar.
Meanwhile, when asked about resumption of peace talks with communist rebels, Dureza said they are still waiting for the President’s go signal to resume negotiations with the members of the National Democratic Front.
“What the President wants is before we resume peace talks, there should be talks first on the implementation of ceasefire,” Dureza told reporters.
Attacks launched by rebel groups against government forces prompted Duterte to suspend the peace talk.
“Success of peace talks can be achieved if only members of rebel groups will not attack government forces,” Dureza said.
He also urged businessmen to invest in conflict-affected places to spur economic development and achieve lasting peace.
Businessmen should not wait for the place to have better situation, but rather take every opportunity for them to contribute to the peace and development efforts of the government, he said.
“If you will wait first for peace to happen, you are not contributing at all,” Dureza said. “They should come simultaneously, while you work for peace there must also be development.”
Dureza cited as example the experience of Datu Paglas, Maguindanao, a fourth-class town now producing export quality banana.
He said the town was known in the past for violence, but after a company invested on banana production, the locals abandoned their guns and started working in banana plantations. Also, they are not only working there, but protecting their source of income as well.
Businessmen in Samar provinces should not be hesitant to invest in their hometowns because of insurgency and peace and security problem, Dureza said.
“If you invest in areas that has problem on peace, when the situation get better you benefit the most because you are way ahead their compare to other businessmen,” he said.
Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan-de los Santos agreed with Dureza, saying peace and development are a shared responsibility.
“Peace and development is not only a job of police and military but all sectors in our society. We should not also focus only to local government officials but we must convince other sectors to help,” she said.
Tan added that under the Peace and Prosperity Roadmap formulated by members of the Regional Peace and Order Council, proposed projects focus on accessibility but also include livelihood development and tourism promotion. (PNA)