By Keith Bacongco
Kapalong, Davao del Norte – Deep in a communist rebel-infested area, Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Jesus Dureza echoed calls made by President Rodrigo Duterte for indigenous peoples (IPs) to unite and urge their fellow lumads to return to the fold of the law after joining the insurgency.
Speaking before hundreds of IP villagers, Dureza outlined the government’s program to address the needs of the people particularly in the hinterland areas like Barangay Gupitan.
“The President is aware that about 75 percent of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels are lumads. You know, too, that many of our lumad brothers are among the NPAs. It’s not necessary to kill each other. Instead, let’s convince them to return to the fold of the law,” the peace adviser said in the local dialect.
Local tribal chieftain Datu Larris Mansaloon admitted that the Ata Manobo tribes in the village have declared “pangayaw” or tribal war, against the NPA rebels.
Dureza was here, Friday, when he led the inauguration of a 77-meter two-lane bridge in Sitio Patil of Barangay Gupitan that would serve as a vital link to the farm-to-market roads in the mountainous villages, leading to the neighboring town of Loreto, which is already part of Agusan del Sur province.
Sitio Patil is about 40 kilometers or about three hours away from the town proper.
The bridge project was implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), through OPAPPs Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program.
PAMANA is a government’s convergence program that provides development assistance to conflict-affected communities.
However, Dureza pleaded with the lumads to be more patient as the government continues to find means to address the needs of the people in the hinterlands. “Let’s us unite to address problems, just be patient. Let’s not just blame the government right away because are working hard to deliver our services,” he said.
He further explained that the people should not just wait for the outcome of any peace process before paving the way for any development projects.
Instead, everyone should work for peace and development at the same time.
“Let’s grab this opportunity that we have a President who hails from Mindanao and his heart is close to the lumads,” Dureza pointed out.