EVEN though they were not part of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-Elcac), the Agricultural Training Institute-Regional Training Center (ATI-RTC) in Northern Mindanao still provides assistance to the rebel returnees.
According to Maria Lydia Echavez, the OIC center director of ATI-RTC-Northern Mindanao, Agriculture Secretary Carlene Collado has involved the ATI in the provision of training and technology assistance to the former rebels.
“Recently, although wala mi na invite diha sa Elcac, Director Carlene Collado involved us sa training (sa mga rebel returnees). So we went to Malaybalay in the 403rd Brigade. We met with General De Leon (403rd Infantry Brigade Commander General Edgardo De Leon) when Secretary Andanar (Secretary Martin Andanar) visited,” Echavez said.
She said the ATI-RTC-Northern Mindanao helped in the development of potential learning site in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, adding that they have already identified what kind of training they will conduct for the rebel returnees.
The ATI-RTC-Northern Mindanao, Echavez said, also have its intervention via the “From Arms to Farms” initiative, a program which is a part of the campaign to promote best practices and encourage other people to venture in agriculture in the country.
The “From Arms to Farms” program started in Lanao del Norte, wherein they cater the rebel returnees from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and Misamis Occidental, the former New People’s Army members.
“So ilang mga farms nahimo nang mga learning sites,” Echavez said.
(So their farms became their learning sites.)
The program was crafted specifically for the agriculture and fishery development of the conflict areas in the country and also to help provide livelihood to former rebels.