DILG inaugurates CNorte ex-rebels’ halfway house

DAET, Camarines Norte --- The Halfway House for Former Rebels (FRs) located at Camp Busig-on in Tulay na Lupa, Labo town was inaugurated and blessed recently through the efforts of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) with the support of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) Committee in Camarines Norte.

DILG assistant regional director Arnulfo Escober, Jr., said via videoteleconference that the halfway house for FRs was a convergence effort of the regional, provincial and local government unit.

The shelter costs P5 million funded last year by the DILG and was finished this year despite the pandemic. Escober said the establishment of the shelter is a convergence effort of National Government Agencies (NGAs) to assist the former rebels, while the shelter's operations will be handled by the provincial government of Camarines Norte.

USec. Reynaldo Mapagu, chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) during the videoconference, commended the efforts of the provincial government led by Gov. Edgardo Tallado in reintegrating FRs and its continuing support to E-CLIP and other activities of the national task force.

"The active participation of the local chief executives (LCEs) defines the success or failure of the program wherein we rely on them the attainment of government's desire to end insurgency within the term of President Rodrigo Duterte," Mapagu said.

DILG provincial director Ray B. Caceres stressed that the halfway house is a temporary shelter of the FRs while they are undergoing trainings and other programs that the government provided.

Under the E-CLIP, financial assistance will be provided to FRs such as P15,000 immediate assistance, P50,000 livelihood assistance and P10,000 grant from LGU-Camarines Norte.

Meanwhile, Philippine Army Brig. Gen. Rommel K. Tello of 902nd IB, said that the halfway house, which is the second in the Bicol region, the first being in Masbate, is the best in the Philippines as far as his appreciation is concerned.

He also bared during the press conference that there is no more insurgency-affected barangay in the province adding that with the conducted Serbisyo Caravan-Barangayans’ “Whole of Nation Approach” under EO 70, the government have already reached isolated barangays affected by insurgencies. A total of 16 former rebels being assisted currently by the government through the ECLIP were also present during the inauguration and blessing.

In an interview, Ka Rigor, Ka Ding and Ka Mimoy, called on their comrades to lay down their arms and pledge allegiance to the government.

Provincial legal officer Atty. Don Culvera, who represented the governor, lauded the FRs for their willing response to be part of the government and the community anew.

He urged former rebels to consider the halfway house as their home or a place they can “feel at home”. “Despite the pandemic, this is the good thing that happened, that the former rebels chose the right path” he said.

During the press conference and forum, Tobias M. Obrero, Jr., of the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA), expressed his support to provide additional skills training for the FRs with agricultural qualifications fit to transform idle land inside the camp into productive space for agricultural products.

Obrero announced that last June 26 this year, the 16 FRs graduated and were awarded with Carpentry National Certificate II (NCII), Tile Setting NC II, Mazonry NCII and Electrical Installation and Maintenance NCII, respectively.

Janet Miranda, representative of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Camarines Norte office, said they have already conducted social preparation for FRs and has identified project for them. A Poultry production site was also established at the camp and has now an allocated budget of P180,000.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Philippine Health Insurance Inc. (PhilHealth), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and National Housing Authority (NHA), among other agencies will also provide assistance to the FRs.

Provincial Social Welfare and Development officer Cynthia de la Cruz said that funding for the maintenance of the shelter this year is P761,000 while next years’ budget has already been proposed.

Cruz said that the halfway house will be managed by a center head with house parents. The PSWDO will provide psychological, health, moral recovery and other services in preparation for the re-integration of FRs in the community. (PIA5/Camarines Norte)