DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Jr said the New People’s Army is collecting around P1.2 billion in revolutionary taxes every year from various mining areas in Mindanao.
Lorenzana emphasized that collection of revolutionary taxes by the NPAs are extortion activities that have long been hurting the business sector in the country. The revolutionary movement refers to it as revolutionary taxes collected by the “people’s democratic government.”
Speaking to the officers and members of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. during the 8th General Membership Meeting at the Grand Regal Hotel here on Friday, Aug. 25, Lorenzana said he personally received reports and complaints from business groups in Mindanao on the “extortion activities” of the NPAs.
He said they already reported the matter to President Rodrigo Duterte and that a program is now being designed by the department to help businessmen cope with the effects of these extortion activities.
Though he did not elaborate further on said program, Lorenzana hinted that it will also include considerable funding that will be used by businessmen to recover from losses due to said NPA activities.
“Do not give in to their demands. They rely on extortion to survive. If the sources of their funds run dry, their activity will also decrease and eventually end their movement,” Lorenzana said.
In a separate interview, DCCCI President Ronald Go confirmed that extortion activities of the NPAs are hurting businesses in the region.
Go also emphasized that previous administrations had sidetracked insurgency problems that forced business establishments to give in to the demands of the rebels.
He said the problem cannot be solved by military solution alone, adding every sector of the society must contribute to ending such extortion activities.
“Every sector must contribute to ending these extortion activities, not only the military solution,” Go said.
National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili, meanwhile, said all taxes collected by the revolutionary government go towards providing services to the people and the communities.
In return, Agcaoili also asked Lorenzana of the P137.2B 2017 budget of the DND and where the fund was allocated.
“Where did the money go? To line the pockets of the generals, military commanders and senior officials of the DND and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and towards the acquisition of military equipment used to kill civilians, bombard communities, destroying crops and houses and laying waste to Marawi, threaten and harass the people, etc?” he told Davao Today in a Facebook interview.
He also hit the AFP for its failure to perform its principal duty of protecting and defending the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines against foreign aggression in the West Philippine Sea, including the Tubataha reef.
“Since the time of Marcos, the AFP has not gone back to the barracks, unable to accept the most basic of democratic principles – civilian supremacy over the military – and always threatening coups once the soldiers don’t get their way and terrorizing the people with guns and equipment that are paid for the taxpayers,” he added.
Agcaoili also borrowed President Duterte’s words that labeled Lorenzana and the rest of the AFP as “staunchly pro-American institution”.
He added that Lorenzana and the AFP are unwilling to accept changes and reforms in Philippine society and dubbed them as “peace spoilers.” (davaotoday.com)