DAVAO CITY — Mayor Rodrigo Duterte urged New People’s Army guerillas to “bury your guns, or hang it on a tree” and engage into a joint business venture with a Malaysian and Thai entity that is looking for a 100,000-hectare area to plant oil palm and sesame seeds plantation.
With Paquibato District a known “stronghold” of the NPA in northern Davao City, Duterte said a plantation in their mid would be solely offered to the guerrillas to grab the opportunity.
“Wa ko mangayo nga ang NPA isurrender ilang armas, tagoan lang nila unya akoy mopagador, sabot mo kung pila ilang pangayuon sa yuta. Kay ilang paliton ang palm oil unya naay trabaho. (I do not ask the NPA to surrender their arms; they just have to hide it. You [NPA] should talk [to investors] how much [rent] you want for the land. They [investors] will buy it and provide jobs),” he said.
Duterte said if the NPA agreed, he guarantees to talk with President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and the Armed Forces of the Philippines about “closing” Paquibato.
“Inyo na, kamo diri ug mga NPA,” said Duterte during the 116th Philippine Independence Day commemoration program he attended in Barangay Paquibato Proper, Paquibato District here.
Duterte was talking about his proposal several times since May this year but it was only lately that he gave the nationalities of the supposed investors. The size of the supposed plantation range from 50,000 to 100,000 hectares, which are figures given by Duterte himself in interviews with the media.
The NPA has not issued any statement yet on Duterte’s offer but the guerrillas have spoken against oil palm plantations in several statements.
In October last year, the NPAs were blamed on the burning of equipment of an oil palm plantation in North Cotabato. It also warned tribal communities in an Agusan del Sur town to beware of a government intention to allow an oil palm corporation that may displace them.
Duterte said the residents of Paquibato may “raise the price of your lot” as he would also talk with the investors to meet minimum wage as mandated by law.
Duterte said he does not want the NPA to impose “revolutionary tax.”
“Kung gusto mo’g ang inyong bargaining CBA ang NPA maoy mangunay, basta ang ako no taxation (If you want, the NPA lead your Collective Bargaining Agreement, but me I don’t want [revolutionary] taxation,” he said.
Paquibato was also put into the limelight in 2012 when an NPA guerrilla lobbed a grenade at an Army detachment but a protective net hurled back the grenade to a gymnasium where civilians were gathering that time for a pre-fiesta sports activity. Several residents were sustained shrapnel wounds.
Paquibato also continues to pose a headache to the government military campaign to dislodge the NPAs from the area. Last month, several residents including barangay officials complained before the City Council about Army troops allegedly harassing them into signing forms which would appear that they are “rebel surrenderees”. They also allege that soldiers encamp in public buildings and areas near to civilian communities.
Duterte assured the complainants in a dialogue between him and the Army that such activities will “stop.”
But during his speech in Paquibato, Duterte said that the NPA “must understand” that Army troops in the area are “soldiers of the republic” and must go to places “unrestrained.”
He also said that the country is “under threat from an aggressive China” and that “we need every soldier.”
He jested that he wants to send NPAs from Paquibato to Palawan in case the current situation will become a “shooting war.”
Duterte was with Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and other ranking members of the Army, Philippine National Police and regional department heads of national agencies.
Duterte and Bautista led the unveiling of a “Peace Monument” and the opening of the Joint AFP-PNP Action Center (JAPAC) facility in the area. They also presented “rebel returnees” lead the signing of a “peace covenant.” (with reports from Ace R. Morandante)