Merardo Arce Command
NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command
In the light of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines – Mindanao’s decision to declare a 29-day unilateral ceasefire in the aftermath of typhoon Pablo, the Merardo Arce Command-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command of the New People’s Army will undertake a suspension of offensive military operations against the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and paramilitary forces covering the provinces of Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley, Davao City, Davao del Norte, Lingig in Surigao del Sur, and the towns of Trento, Veruela, Loreto, and Sta. Josefa in Agusan del Sur.
The NPA Southern Mindanao’s ceasefire coverage is extended to other parts of the region not directly hit by the 4 December tragedy to enable its NPA units to muster all efforts in addressing the State of Acute Crisis afflicting the peasants, Lumads, workers and poor residents of affected areas.
Over the last 11 days, NPA units operating in the affected areas have shifted from their various assignments to immediately respond to the needs of the masses. As winds raged, fiercely striking houses and timbers, NPA members were with the masses trying to survive from the devastation. A number of Red fighters were hurt, few seriously harmed, but no fatalities were reported from the field.
Six hours after the typhoon, NPA members surveyed their immediate vicinities, attended to the grieving revolutionary forces who were widowed or orphaned, helped in the rescue efforts, and shared the units’ food supplies to the masses. For several days, NPA medics made makeshift clinics and attended to the health needs of the affected masses.
Other NPA members repaired the houses and schools, and salvaged scraps from the debris to rebuild wrecked roofs and ruined walls. NPA women conducted psychosocial therapy to children who were traumatized; they also comforted the elderly who expressed shock after having gone through a disaster that have not occurred in their midst for as long as they can remember. Families of many Red fighters were also affected, their homes destroyed, their farms ravaged.
The NPA Southern Mindanao is cognizant of the grave crisis occurring in at least 24 towns of its regional jurisdiction, in more than a third of its revolutionary forces, in more than a million of peasants, workers, Lumads, and ordinary poor in the two hardest hit provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
The national calamity that was typhoon Pablo has not only snuffed out the lives of more than a thousand people, and left homeless hundreds of thousands of people who are either now cramped in the evacuation centers or occupying in temporary shelters among the ruins and in far-flung ravaged villages. It has resulted in the state of acute crisis in the major part of Southern Mindanao and boundary towns as it destroyed all the main sources of livelihood of the people. 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.
Gold mining plants in Diwalwal, packing plants of multi-national banana companies in Compostela, and those of the coconut industry in Davao Oriental have all stopped operations due to cut-off electricity and damaged infrastructure, leaving hundreds of thousands of farmworkers, mine workers, and coconut farmers jobless and their families in extreme penury. Desperate masses have resorted to ransacking an NFA (National Food Authority) rice warehouse, putting up barricades to force passing motorists to leave them some relief goods, begging alms, and scavenging out of the scraps from the wreckage so that they could repair their houses.
Indeed, the 4 December tragedy has transformed Compostela Valley-Davao Oriental’s backward, export-oriented agricultural economy into a subsistence economy, in terrible acute crisis with long-term economic and social repercussions.
And there is no immediate resolution in sight. In the last 11 days, the US-Aquino regime has mainly positioned its fascist AFP to lead in the relief and retrieval operations under Oplan Bayanihan. It has increased the number of AFP/PNP troops with more reinforcements in the affected areas, which were already 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. It is clearly attempting to monopolize all relief and rehabilitation efforts by acting as escorts and implementers of relief assistance from both the Aquino government and private organizations. It is collaborating with the US military troops to participate in assisting Pablo victims, in defiance of our national sovereignty.
The US-Aquino regime is taking great pains in trying to assuage the condemnation and the rising discontent of the victims and their families by showcasing the release of some paltry funds. The resources are only fit for a few days of relief goods and insufficient to feed the millions who were devastated by Pablo nationwide. The regime has failed to reach out to the majority of hungry people in the hinterland and far-flung villages.
Worse, the Aquino government has ignored all calls to suspend large-scale mining and logging operations, repeal the Mining Act of 1995 and the total ban of big timbre operations. It has failed to truly get down to the root cause of Pablo and its aftermath: 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.
The devastation of Pablo is 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.
Meantime, the NPA assures the safety and security of all well-meaning individuals and private entities that wish to assist Pablo victims; thus there is no need for them to ask the military and the police to be their bodyguard or defense convoy. As the NPA is on unilateral ceasefire, the NPA enjoins the AFP units participating in relief and rehabilitation activities in the affected areas 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.
As the impact of typhoon Pablo will be felt for a long time and recovery nowhere in sight, the NPA urges the people to struggle to make the forest plunderers and inept LGU (local government unit) officials be held accountable for the tragedy.
Now, more than ever, the people’s war for social justice and emancipation from capitalist/landlord exploitation is advancing in the face of extreme crisis and state neglect. Recovery of damaged farmlands, regeneration of denuded mountains, and rebuilding of social infrastructures are pressing tasks that the people must endeavor. The answer to the cries of the masses lies in the genuine land reform and state subsidy.
The NPA and the people’s democratic government will persevere in serving the people in the guerilla bases and affected communities and implement its agrarian revolution program in applicable areas.
(Sgd.) Rigoberto F. Sanchez
Spokesperson, MAC-NPA SMR