EXTORTION and other problems arising from the communist insurgency were the focus of the discussion during the 1st quarter Regional Peace and Order Council meeting on Thursday, March 15, in Tagum City.

Douglas Cagas, Davao del Sur governor, appealed to businessmen not to give in to the extortion demands of the rebel group.

"Maraming napapatay na mga local government officials," he said adding that the businessmen can make the local officials' jobs easier by not funding the NPA saying that while government funds peace and order councils, the NPA is enjoying funding as well from many groups who concede to their demands.

Vic Lao, Mindanao Business Council chair and at the same time an owner of an agricultural business, shared his sentiments why businessmen have been cowed to hand over funds to the rebels.

"Businessmen would rather opt for cheaper option," he said.

Burning of equipment and facilities by the NPAs is just one of the many expensive collateral damage that the rebels are wont to do if a businessman refuses to give in to extortion.

He suggested the need of some kind of insurance that businessmen can get.

Lao explained that with the insurance, businessmen would not mind if the rebels burn all their equipment because they can buy new replacements for these from the insurance they would get.

He also said that it's all a matter of perception. When businessmen perceive that the government is not doing anything on equipment burning by the rebels even after they have reported the incident to the authorities, then the best option for them is to give in to the rebels' demands.

"What would the people tell di ba? Ay wala pala kayong nagagawa, the Armed Forces is not doing anything," he said in answering why most of the businessmen opt for the cheaper option, adding that it's a psychological war or a perception game.

"The AFP must do something about it," he added.

Eastern Mindanao commander Lt. Gen. Benjie Madrigal for his part asked the businessmen to report any atrocities by the rebels not only to them but all the government agencies concerned.

He said that by doing this, the government agencies concerned can also look for ways for the supporters of the rebels to withdraw their support to them.

"Kasi usually ang nanununog ng mga equipment, ang ground combatants ng NPAs are the supporters, sila ang may hawak ng gasolina, sila ang may hawak ng IED and food cache," he said adding that the regular NPA members are only there telling orders.

He also said that's why they are strengthening their community support program as part of their strategy so that supporters of the NPAs in the community will back out from supporting the rebels.

With this, Mindanao IPs Conference for Peace and Development (MIPCPD) chairman Datu Lipatuan Joel A. Unad said that he knew supporters of the NPA referred to by the Eastmincom commander are mostly indegenous peoples as the areas infested by the rebels are mostly their ancestral domain.

With this, the motion filed by Samal Mayor Al David Uy to increase the recruitment of IPs was approved having 35 votes over 38.