Editorial: Pushing on for peace

THE aggression by the New People's Army the past days, where they have been setting on fire road building equipment in hinterland areas, shows three things: first, that the rebels are not above flexing their muscles just to show they still exist; second, they can do it where there are not many law enforcers; and third, that they are still a problem to deal with. Yesterday, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio revealed that the DC-Peace Development Council was changed to a task force named Peace 911 to implement projects in the Paquibato area, that district where the NPA continues to threaten and recruit from. Consultations have already been made, she said, but the projects identified still has to be implemented.

The DC-Peace Development, now Peace 911, was created to deliver services to rebel-influenced areas like Paquibato so that the long-standing claim and propaganda by the rebels will no longer have any basis to spring from. Through the 49 years that the NPA has been in existence, it has always aroused the masses and made them their community forces, source of regular supplies, and recruitment base through propaganda using the dire state of poverty these hinterland residents are in. It's easy, considering their distance and government's ineptitude for so long, the rebellion drew strength. First from the workers closer downtown, but after situations have become worse, laborers found it more reasonable to bargain collectively for themselves. The recruitment base then moved to the indigenous peoples in the hinterland. The lack of organization and access to basic services make it easy for these residents to be recruited. Throw in abuses in the past by landlords, military, and even paramilitary, and you get the best condition for recruitment.

Thus, a government that reaches to the farthest and areas of the city can create communities that will strive to thrive on their own and protect what they have achieved. Communities that get the services they need to build better homes and communities will find a way to keep the troublemakers out, not necessarily by arming themselves, but by talking their members out of entertaining ideas of joining the communists.

"The Peace 911, because they are directed for peace and development projects, there are already plans for the Paquibato area. So hopefully, the claims they say as the reason why they join the rebel group will be addressed with the list of projects identified by the community in their community consultation," the mayor said. Hopefully. But we know that the rebels will not easily give up and will do everything to keep their ground, and that is where the security situation can turn for the worse.

But with the world focus turning toward agroecology and the role of small farm families in sustaining the environment while providing the food for the city, there are greater chances for families to rise up and grow with the communities outside that require their farm outputs and the environment they take care of. The local government just jas to set down the policies and implement these. With better means to thrive, however, even the hinterland communities will no longer be held hostage by any organization's whims and ideologies, and that is what real empowerment is all about.
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