An 8-bedroom temporary shelter called “Happy House”, which former rebels constructed themselves with the help of the citizen armed force and the Marines has been opened and turned over to them at the Marine Base Rodolfo Punsalang in Barangay Tiniguiban in this city.
The event on Thursday morning was led by the Palawan Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF ELCAC) and the 3rd Marine Brigade (3MBde) of the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC).
Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Nestor Herico said the living quarters will serve as the midway home of the former rebels (FRs) who voluntarily surrendered last year.
Constructed by the FRs with 3MBde personnel and those belonging to the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), Herico said around P500,000 was utilized to complete the project from funds shared by the task force and the PMC.
He said the FRs will temporarily stay in the Happy House while they are waiting for the completion of the process of their reintegration. It is equipped with beds, cribs for babies, and other provisions needed to become a livable space.
“When I assumed as the commander of the 3MBde, ongoing na ang construction ng Happy House. However, I urged my team to hasten the construction, at hindi lang Marines at CAFGU ang gagawa kundi tutulong ang nga former rebels kasi sila din naman ang titira diyan,” he said.
“This temporary shelter is intended for them and the government is here to provide assistance as they transform themselves from being rebels to deradicalized and productive civilians. We prepared this shelter for them, may room for couples or family ng former rebels. Meron din kaming inihanda na crib para sa former rebel na bagong panganak, kasi gusto naming makita at maramdaman ng mga dating rebelde na kasama nila ang gobyerno sa pagsusulong ng kapayapaan,” Herico added.
George Maria, vice president for community affairs of Yamang Bukid who was the guest speaker in the event, offered livelihood to the FRs through an urban gardening project that will be set up in front of the marine base.
Yamang Bukid is an agro-tourism community in Barangay Bacungan that is engaged in the promotion of organic farming and urban gardening.
“Hindi na kayo mahihirapan dahil sa harap mismo ng kampo ay magkakaroon kami ng urban gardening. Welcome kayo lahat na pumasok,” Maria said.
During his speech, Maria also shared Yamang Bukid’s success stories and its reason for helping people.
He said Yamang Bukid believes that love is one of the keys to the attainment of peace.
“Naniniwala ako na kapag may pagmamahalan ay may kapayapaan. Nandito ang ating mga FRs at tinitingnan natin sila bilang mga mabubuting tao na pinili ang pagbabalik-loob sa gobyerno,” he said.
Meanwhile, Herico called on other members of the leftist movement to stand down, lay down their arms, and return to the folds of the law.
He said the government is ready to help them with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and other related national and provincial government offices.
“Very much welcome ang mga nagnanais pang sumuko at magbaba ng armas. Hindi lang maayos na matitirhan ang naghihintay sa kanila kundi maayos na pamumuhay,” he said.
“Naniniwala ako na hindi solusyon ang armadong pakikibaka. Ito [na] ang tamang panahon ng pagsuko sa kanilang mga huwad at baluktot na paniniwala sapagkat hindi tumitigil ang ating pamahalaan — nasyunal man o lokal — lahat kami ay handang sugpuin sila, kaya’t habang may pagkakataon pa silang magbaba ng armas, gawin na nila ito,” Herico said in his speech.
The provincial government was represented in the event by Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) head Abigail Ablaña.