Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Construction of IP school in Surigao Sur town starts

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13, 2020): Construction of IP school in Surigao Sur town starts (By Alexander Lopez)

TRIBAL SCHOOL. Members of the Manobo tribe welcome the start of the construction of the Sitio Simuwao School of Living Traditions in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur on Tuesday (May 12, 2020). The new school is an initiative of the local tribal council and supported by the multi-sectoral Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. (Photo courtesy of 3SFBn)

Members of the Manobo tribe in conflict-affected Lianga town in Surigao del Sur province welcomed the start of the construction of an Indigenous Peoples (IP) school that would benefit their children.

Hawudon Jumar S. Bucales, the Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) of Lianga, said the tribe was elated with the start of the construction of the Sitio Simuwao School of Living Traditions in Sitio Simuwao (Km. 9), Barangay Diatagon on Tuesday.

“This school of living traditions of our tribe will replace the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS),”
Bucales said in a statement on Wednesday.

The TRIFPSS has long been suspected by the military of having links with the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the area.

The NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

“The Manobos here in Simuwao and the nearby barangays have been waiting for the start of the construction of this IP school. We are happy that the government finally started its construction. This is for the future of our children,” Bucales said.

Resident, Arnold Godez, thanked the government for the construction of the IP school.

“As a parent, I am happy that my children will no longer walk far every day just to attend school,” Godez said.

1Lt. Krisjuper Andreo J. Punsalan, civil-military operations officer of the Army's 3rd Special Forces Battalion (3SFBn), said the proposal to construct an IP school in the area emanated from the local IP Council and the resolution issued by Barangay Diatagon officials.

“The local government of Lianga adopted the resolutions, which were supported by the Regional Peace and Order Council, chaired by Governor Alexander T. Pimentel of Surigao del Sur, and Regional Development Council - Social Development Committee, chaired by Mayor Kirk A. Asis of Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur,” Punsalan said.

He said the move is part of the efforts of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) to implement development projects in identified Peace and Development Zones in the Caraga region.

Lt. Col. Joey B. Baybayan, 3SFBn commander, also welcomed the construction of the IP school and assured the help of the community support teams of the Army and the 544 Engineer Battalion until the completion of the school building.

“The Army will continue to support and protect Sitio Simuwao until the completion of the school project,” Baybayan said, recalling how the NPA attacked the civilians in the area last February 21 and injured three residents.

Brig. Gen. Allan D. Hambala, commander of the Army's 401st Infantry Brigade, said he was grateful for the "prompt response" of the RTF-ELCAC member agencies to make the schools ready before the opening of classes after the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis.

“To make the IPs resilient and not deprive them of quality education are some of the primary objectives of the whole-of-nation approach to end local communist armed conflict. Through proper education, the IPs will be able to protect themselves from the CNTs’ (Communist NPA terrorists’) deception and exploitation," Hambala said. "Further, providing them quality education could help them preserve and develop their culture and tradition.”

Meanwhile, Bucales and Lianga's tribal council have called on party-list Bayan Muna and its local affiliate, the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), and their allies "not to create any scene to disrupt the establishment of the IP schools in the area."
“There’s nothing wrong if a school is constructed for the good of our tribe and our children,” Bucales said.

“Join us and support the completion of this school building. Let us declare the terrorist NPA as persona non grata to end all these conflicts caused by their misguided ideologies and principles.”

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