By Francis Wakefield
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday revealed that the communist New People’s Army (NPA) is able to rake in P1.2 billion each year in its extortion activities in Eastern Mindanao alone.
Lorenzana made the revelation at the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) General Membership Meeting in Makati Shangri-la which he attended together with Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.
Lorenzana said it strikes at the heart of doing business in Mindanao especially those in Eastern Mindanao affected by the extortion activities committed by communist rebels.
Eastern Mindanao comprises Agusan del Norte and Sur, Surigao del Norte and Sur, Davao, Compostela Valley, and South Cotabato.
“The amount of money that the NPA is extorting, I refuse to call them revolutionary tax, those are not tax, those are plain and simple extortion. The amount of money that the CPP-NPA is collecting from Eastern Mindanao alone is P1.2 billion pesos a year,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana, at the same time, admitted that he was the one who encouraged President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to stop the peace talks with the Reds due to the numerous atrocities committed by the communist rebels.
“That is why I was the one, they are correct, I was the one who was blocking the talks because I said “Mr. President let us stop the talks with the CPP-NPA as it is not going anywhere,” Lorenzana told reporters.
Lorenzana, at the same time, said if only the National Democratic Front (NDF) will sign a joint ceasefire with the government today, they can advocate peace talks immediately.
“Without that, it’s useless. But the NDF under Jose Maria Sison wants to fight and talk and that is playing into their hands,” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana said despite their overtures for peace talks with the government, the communists keep on fighting, they keep on shooting, attacking the civilians, burning buses, burning equipment, kidnapping local officials, attacking the police, attacking the military and then extorting money.
“If you will remember, we had this unilateral ceasefire last year which they violated left and right. That’s why the president had to stop also the ceasefire of the government. So the decision that we have, it came up at the cabinet level, is to have a bilateral ceasefire immediately before we can continue with the peace talks.”
“I think that is not a very unreasonable request because we do not want more destruction in the field. What the NDF wants is they want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to talk while they are extorting money in the countryside and they are earning a lot of money by extorting money from businessmen in Mindanao.”
“So I suggested some formula to the president, to encourage our people, the management people not to pay any more taxes or any more money to these extortionists so that’s what’s happening in the sector,” he added.
Despite encouraging the Chief Executive to cancel the talks, Lorenzana, however, said it’s still up to him to revive it.
“That will be the decision of the President. In the final analysis, it is his call to go on with the peace talks with or without a bilateral ceasefire, decision nya iyun,” Lorenzana said.
All Credit Goes There : Source link