The ceasefire coverage, Rigoberto F. Sanchez, spokesman of the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command said, is extended to other parts of their regional jurisdiction which are not directly hit by typhoon Pablo to help address the said crisis especially in the more than 24 towns in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental where over 33 percent of its “revolutionary forces” live and over a million of peasants, workers, lumads and ordinary poor are affected.
By MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The New People’s Army (NPA) in Southern Mindanao declared a suspension of offensive military operations (Somo) against the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and paramilitary forces in areas affected by the super typhoon Pablo (International name: Bopha) “to enable NPA units to muster all efforts in addressing the State of Acute Crisis afflicting the peasants, Lumads, workers and poor residents.”
In a statement dated December 15, Rigoberto F. Sanchez, spokesman of the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command, said the ceasefire is undertaken in the provinces of Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao City and Davao del Norte as well as in Lingig Surigao del Sur and in the towns of Trento, Veruela, Loreto and Sta. Josefa in Agusan del Sur.
The ceasefire coverage, Sanchez said, is extended to other parts of their regional jurisdiction which are not directly hit by typhoon Pablo to help address the said crisis especially in the more than 24 towns in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental where over 33 percent of its “revolutionary forces” live and over a million of peasants, workers, lumads and ordinary poor are affected.
As of 8 AM December 18, the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) noted in the Davao Region alone a total of 839 affected villages with 415,565 families and 4,846,450 individuals. About 990 individuals are recorded dead while 2,523 were injured and 524 still missing.
“Atong gina-welcome kini nga mga lakang alang sa kalinaw ug alang sa katawhan nga apektado sa bagyong Pablo (We welcome this move for the sake of peace and for the people affected by typhoon Pablo),” United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Bishop Modesto Villasanta told davaotoday.com. He added, “Kini nga deklarasyon makatabang sa pagpahapsay sa mga lihok sa pagtabang sa mga katawhan nga biktima sa kalamidad ug sa atong pagsaulog sa Pasko taliwala sa kalisud sa atong kahimtang karon. (This declaration helps to make relief action for the victims of the calamity easier, and it also helps make our Christmas celebration meaningful amidst the hardship today.)”
‘Surviving with the masses’
Sanchez said that “As winds raged fiercely striking houses and timbers, NPA members were with the masses trying to survive from the devastation.”
He said that a number of NPA members were also hurt while few were seriously harmed. However, there were no reported fatalities. He added families of many NPA members were also affected, with their homes destroyed and farms ravaged.
Few hours after the typhoon, Sanchez said, NPAs surveyed their immediate vicinities and attended to the “grieving revolutionary forces who were widowed or orphaned, helped in the rescue efforts, and shared the unit’s food supply to the masses.”
NPA medics have made makeshift clinics and attended to health needs of Pablo victims while others helped repair houses and schools damaged by the typhoon, according to Sanchez. NPA women, he said, also conducted psychosocial therapy to traumatized children as well as comforted the elderly who expressed shock after having gone through the disaster.
State of acute crisis
The NPA said that Pablo resulted to the “state of acute crisis” as it destroyed all the main sources of livelihood of the people.
The NDRRMC noted over PHP 6.6 billion damage to infrastructure and over PHP 14 billion damage to agriculture as of December 18. A total of 36,982 houses were totally damaged while 42,756 were partially damaged.
“A survey in the affected areas reveal hungry people subsisting on relief goods, bleak and bare mountainous landscapes, depleted water source, dirty rivers, destroyed makeshift, concrete, and hanging bridges, severed coconut palms and banana trees, and wasted farmlands,” Sanchez said.
The NPA’s ceasefire declaration was appreciated by local chief executives.
“It’s most welcome,” Davao Oriental Governor Cora Malanyaon told davaotoday.com in a text message.
Her province, according to the NDRRMC, has a total of 139 affected villages with 68,704 families or 530,098 individuals. A total of 391 bodies were recovered from the towns of Manay, Tarragona, Caraga, Baganga, Cateel and Boston while 1,810 were injured and 52 are still missing.
Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy said he “appreciated” the NPA ceasefire.
His province was badly hit where a total of 242 villages were affected with 121,572 families of 655,373 individuals. His province has the most number of recovered bodies with a total of 599 from the towns of Kapalong, Mawab, Monkayo, Montevista, New Bataan, Nabunturan, Pantukan, Compostela, Mabini, Maco, Laak and Maragusan. About 695 were injured while 471 are still missing.
“That’s a welcome development for the sake of the affected families ravaged and destroyed by typhoon Pablo,” Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo del Rosario also told davaotoday.com in a text message.
Davao del Norte has a total of 134 affected villages with 68,148 families or 848,798 individuals. Fortunately, nobody was killed but one was declared missing while 18 were injured.
“(The ceasefire) would pave the free entry of relief assistance coming from all over the world, ensuring early rehab of the area,” said Del Rosario who’s also chair of the Regional Peace and Order Committee.
NPA’s Sanchez has assured the “safety and security of all well-meaning individuals and private entities that wish to assist Pablo victims,” saying “there is no need for them to ask the military and the police to be their bodyguard or defense convoy.”
The communist leader has enjoined AFP units who are participating in the relief and rehabilitation to “be unarmed, not combat-ready and to desist from conducting intelligence activities.”
“While the NPA will temporarily stop launching tactical offensives against its legitimate military targets, it will remain active in defending itself from the enemy’s overt and covert operations,” Sanchez said.
The military, meanwhile, also declared an 18-day Somo “in observance of the Yuletide season.” It runs December 16 to January 2 next year.
The military said its Somo will include the “deliberate offensive operations against the NPA but will maintain activities supporting the government and civil authorities’ peace, development, and humanitarian assistance program.”
“Good can only come out of it,” Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte said, adding that “I hope both sides will keep to their pronouncements.”
“I appreciate if both parties declare a ceasefire to facilitate relief assistance to victims of Pablo,” said UCCP Bishop Felixberto Calang. “But gawas sa temporary ceasefire, tan-awon unta sa both parties unsay (But aside from the temporary ceasefire, both parties should look at …) medium and long term plan for environmental protection, policies on large-scale mining, corporate plantations, among others. These are substantive agenda in the peace talks,” he said.
The NPA has criticized the Aquino government for letting the AFP lead the relief and retrieval operations.
“It is clearly attempting to monopolize all relief and rehabilitation efforts by acting as escorts and implementers of relief assistance from both GPH and private organizations. It is collaborating with the US military troops to participate in assisting Pablo victims, in defiance of our national sovereignty,” Sanchez said.
The NPA said the GPH has increased the number of military and police troops “which were heavily militarized long before typhoon Pablo occurred.”
“It is appalling that while the AFP played a key role in the big logging and mining operations in the last decades — by being private armies of these firms responsible for the forced clearing operations of Lumad and peasant communities — it is now trying to reinvent itself as the disaster czar and people’s heroes,” Sanchez said.
The NPA also scored the GPH for ignoring all calls to suspend large-scale mining and logging operations, repeal the Mining Act of 1995 and the total ban of big timber operations, saying the GPH has “failed to truly get down to the root cause of Pablo and its aftermath.”
The communist movement pointed to imperialist plunder of natural forest covers and climate change as a direct result of huge emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by energy-hungry monopoly capitalist industries. It said the devastation of Pablo was a consequence of unfettered deforestation and industrial emission all over the world.
“Sadly, the people have dearly paid the price 50 years after big logging concessionaires like Valma and PICOP have shaved off the forests of Southern Mindanao and in Caraga, and 30 years after big mining companies struck in gold-rich towns of Comval and Davao Oriental,” Sanchez said. (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)