A mass graduation ceremony for Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and former rebels was held last October 1 at Sitio Ibuan, Bgy. Mampi, Lanuza, Surigao del Sur after they finished skills courses under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Present during the event were Secretary Isidro S. Lapeña, TESDA Director General, Undersecretary Atty. Jo Ann M. Burgos of the Office of the Cabinet Secretariat and Surigao del Sur Governor Alexander ” Ayek” T. Pimentel. The three also led the awarding of cash assistance to the former rebels who recently surrendered to the government. 

“Their assistance to the local communities has yielded very positive results.”

This was the first TESDA Mass Graduation under the Poverty Reduction Livelihood Employment Cluster (PRLEC) of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC), all part of the groups’ efforts to provide solutions to local problems relating to the communist insurgency.  

In a telephone interview, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles expressed full satisfaction with the successful efforts of the CARAGA region’s leadership to heed the directives of President Rodrigo Duterte in ending the communist problem through positive livelihood and economic programs.

“We’re extremely pleased with the results of all these alternative, non-combative initiatives. CARAGA again leads in this effort. I thank the various government agencies for their cooperation and focus. Their assistance to the local communities has yielded very positive results,” Nograles said.

Secretary Lapeña, in his speech during the commencement ceremonies, noted that the free training provided by TESDA was the agency’s own contribution to solving the communist conflict, in line with President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70.

The TESDA head emphasized the agency’s role in solving problems on poverty and peace because it was the gateway to skills training, employment and livelihood. 

Lapeña added that like the Poverty Reduction Livelihood Employment Cluster (PRLEC) which was implemented in Surigao del Sur, TESDA was continuing in its interventions to provide skills training to the underprivileged and special clients such as rebel returnees, IPs, drug surrenderees, inmates and their families and other similar sectors.

For her part, Usec Burgos who represented Secretary Nograles during the event said that EO 70’s primary purpose was to forge a national peace framework and establish a “whole-of-nation approach” to achieve “inclusive and sustainable peace” to target the impediments to development. 

What was important in the “whole-of-nation approach” she said was for the government to win over the hearts, minds and trust of the people through meaningful services like jobs, social development packages, education, skills, housing and health care especially to the poorer sectors of society.

Governor Pimentel thanked the residents and barangay officials of Sitio Ibuan, making particular mention of their Punong Barangay who himself was a rebel returnee active in leading government’s efforts at providing livelihood at the grassroots level.

The mass graduation ended with the unveiling of the PRLEC marker at the Ibuan Enterprise Village, which included the name of Cabinet Secretary Nograles, the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) and Chairperson of the RTF-ELCAC CARAGA, as well as other officials involved in the program. 

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