Philippines: 2,506 ex-rebels get P65.62M gov't livelihood benefits in '09

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Written by Mitch Confesor

MANILA, Dec. 30 - The Social Integration Program (SIP) has proven to be the most effective counter-insurgency weapon without guns and bullets, attracting 2,506 New People's Army (NPA) rebels to surrender in 2009 to avail of the government's livelihood scheme.

In his yearend report, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Annabelle T. Abaya said the livelihood program will be intensified in 2010 to complement President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's "Beat-the-Odds" program of terminating the twin insurgencies waged by NPA rebels and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) before she steps down from office on June 30, 2010.

The SIP is being implemented by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

In 2009, the SIP's livelihood package for NPA rebel returnees totaled P65.62 million.

Under this livelihood program, each former rebel gets P20,000 in immediate cash assistance to sustain him and his family as they return to the mainstream of society.

If a rebel surrenders his M-16 or M-14 assault rifle, he gets an additional P50,000.

Since the program was launched in 2008, 330 high-powered firearms were yielded by NPA rebels to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

A former rebel may also avail of capital goods in the amount of P50,000 to operate a sari-sari store or acquire a farm implement such as a hand tractor or working animals or become a tricycle operator.

NPA rebel returnees who have availed of the SIP scheme since 2008 when it was formally launched come from the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya in Region 2; Abra, Apayao, and Kalinga in Cordillera region; Bataan, Bulacan, Tarlac, and Zambales in Region 3; Laguna and Quezon in Region 4-A; Negros Occidental in Region 6; Bohol and Negros Oriental in Region 7; Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, and Western Samar in Region 8; Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Sur in Region 9; Misamis Oriental and Misamis Occidental in Region 10; Sarangani in Region 12; and Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, and Butuan in Caraga region.

To ensure the success of the program, OPAPP established 25 Local Social Integration Committees (LSICs) all over the country, while 15 more LSICs are currently in the process of formal organization.