PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, January 9, expressed his intent to place Masbate, which remains a rebel-infested area in the Bicol region, under land reform.
Duterte bared his plan in a speech delivered in Dimasalang town in Masbate, as he lamented that communist guerillas continue to grab lands as part of their revolt against the government.
In an attempt to reduce presence of communists' armed wing New People's Army (NPA) in Bicol, the President directed Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones to study the possibility of placing land reform in Masbate.
Duterte said land reform in Masbate was achievable even without the participation of the communists, which bat for a genuine land reform program that will be included in the possible peace deal with the government.
"Makakuha tayo ng lupa. Bakit? Sila lang ba ang marunong... Hoy, kayong mga NPA mag-hanap kayo. Babalik ako dito at sabihin ko sa secretary ng DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform), Castriciones, pag-aralan mo kasi ibigay natin lahat. Pagkatapos niyang termino ko, ‘yang lahat ng lupa ng gobyerno naibigay na," he said.
(We can get the land. Why? Are they the only one capable of doing that? To the NPA, get your own. I will return here and will tell DAR Secretary, Castriciones, to study the possible distribution of lands. After my term, all have already been distributed.)
"Nandito ba si Secretary Castriciones? Is he here? Sabihin mo sa kanya next week magpunta siya dito. Tingnan niya ang Masbate. I-land reform niya lahat (Is Secretary Castriciones here? Is he here? Tell him to go here next week, inspect Masbate, and place it under land reform)," he added.
Free distribution of agricultural land was among the issues discussed by the Duterte government and the communist leaders before the peace negotiations were terminated in November 2017.
There were efforts to revive negotiations last year, but Duterte ordered to postpone the resumption of talks with the communists to pave way for a review of all existing peace agreements with the rebels.
While lashing out at the communist guerilla, Duterte still gave hope that they would eventually surrender.
The President vowed to give communist insurgents a better life, if they decide to surrender.
"Tingnan mo mga NPA. Anong gusto ninyo? (To the NPA, what do you want?) Another 52 years of fighting? Manalo kayo? (You will win?) Not in a million years," he said.
"Sumurrender kayo... Handa akong mag-pabahay dito. Gawan ko kayo ng bahay. Tapos huwag ninyong galawin ‘yang gobyerno, mga tao kasi nagtatrabaho lang ‘yan. Papasok dito ang Tesda (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority), DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), and I will order them to hurry up," he added.
(Just surrender... I'm ready to give you home. Just don't hurt any government personnel because they're just doing their job. And jf you surrender, I will order Tesda, DTI, and DSWD to hurry up in giving assistance to you.) (SunStar Philippines)