Ibajay, Aklan – The boom in the tourism industry of Aklan was the major peace dividend that resulted from the peace agreement signed between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPM-P/RPA/ABB) in 2000, according to Governor Florencio T. Miraflores.
“Because of the Peace Agreement, Aklan became insurgency-free. Nawala ang gulo, karahasan, murder, at iba pa. Nagkaroon ng peace and order. Dahil dito, umayos ang turismo sa ating lugar. Sa nakalipas na sampung taon, wala pang insidente [ng gulo at karahasan] (Because of the Peace Agreement, Aklan became insurgency-free. There were no more skirmishes, violence, murder, etc. Peace and order was established. As a result, tourism became successful. In the past ten years, there were no incidents of violence),” Miraflores said during the groundbreaking ceremony and launching of Cabugao farm-to-market road project held recently in this town.
“Ang arrivals ng turismo sa ating lugar ay umakyat sa 1 million at ito ay nagbibigay ng karagdagang P1.2 bilyong budget sa probinsya (Tourist arrivals increased to 1 million which contributed to additional P1.2 billion in the provincial budget,” he added.
He also urged the community and local officials to work together for continued peace and development in Aklan.
“Dapat tulung-tulong tayo na maging successful ang proyektong ito. Sa pamamagitan ng localized peace agreements, hangad kong maging model na settlement sites sa buong bansa ang mga communities dito sa Aklan. (We must all work together. Through localized peace agreements, it is my aspiration that settlement sites here in Aklan become model communities that will be emulated nationwide),” Miraflores stated.
In his message, Director Alex Umpar of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process explained that the provision of settlement sites is one of the major strategies for the economic mainstreaming of the RPM-P/RPA/ABB, particularly its Tabara-Paduano Group (TPG) faction, under the GPH-RPM-P/RPA/ABB Closure Agreement.
The RPM-P/RPA/ABB is a breakaway group of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front. RPM-P/RPA/ABB split in 2007, and the TPG now pursues a Closure Agreement and prepares for its eventual transformation into a socio-economic, unarmed organization.
“With the aim of putting a proper and peaceful closure to this peace track, the government is aiming to sign a closure agreement with the RPM-P/RPA/ABB to ensure that the signed Peace Agreement of 2000 will be fully implemented and with finality. We hope that the signing will be done by the end of this year,” Umpar explained.
PAMANA as mechanism
Part of the component of the closure agreement is the social and economic reintegration of RPM-P/RPA/ABB members as well community peace dividends through the establishment of Peace and Development Communities (PDC) or settlement sites. PAMANA or Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Peaceful and Resilient Communities) is the primary mechanism being utilized to deliver these components of the agreement.
In Aklan, a settlement site and three community development sites have been identified. The one-kilometer farm-to-market road from Brgy. Regador to Brgy. Cabugao worth P5 million is one of the approved PAMANA projects in the area.
The PAMANA interventions are determined based on the profiling of needs of the RPM-P/RPA/ABB TPG members matched with available and feasible options in the area. This serves to support livelihood and enterprise development and community-based impact projects.
Veronica Tabara, national representative of the RPM-P/RPA/ABB TPG, expressed high hopes that through the Closure Agreement and PAMANA, peripheral communities and vulnerable sectors will also benefit from the development and growth of Aklan.
“Sa pamamagitan ng kasunduang pangkapayapaan at ng PAMANA, umaasa kami na higit pang pagbabago ang makakamit sa mga komunidad at sa buhay ng mga dating rebelde. Sa pamamagitan ng socio-economic reintegration, ang mga former rebels ay magkakaroon ng produktibong buhay at makakaambag sa pambansang ekonomiya. Nakasalalay ang pag-unlad ng settlement sites sa mga infrastructures katulad nitong farm-to-market road (Through the closure agreement and PAMANA, we are hopeful that greater improvement will be attained in the communities and in the lives of former rebels. Through socio-economic reintegration, former rebels will have productive lives and will be able to contribute to national economy. The development of settlement sites largely rely on infrastructures like this farm-to-market road,” she said.
PAMANA is the national government’s program that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach, and conflict-affected and vulnerable communities, ensuring that they are not left behind. A complementary track to peace negotiations, the program is anchored on the Aquino administration’s strategy of winning the peace by forging strategic partnerships with national agencies in promoting convergent delivery of goods and services, and addressing regional development challenges in conflict-affected and vulnerable areas.