Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said aid meant for IDPs in Lianga, Surigao del Sur are handled by the local government. Presidential Photo

No food blockade in Lianga, says AFP
(Philstar.com) - December 8, 2017 - 7:38am
MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines on Friday disputed reports that soldiers have been blocking aid meant for evacuees in a vilage in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.
 
At a press briefing, Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesperson, said there is no food blockade around Barangay Diatagon, where non-government groups say more than 1,000 people have fled to avoid getting caught in clashes between the military and the New People's Army.
 
"All aid to the internally displaced persons, if there is any, goes to the local government and the military is just there to provide security," he said in Filipino.
 
This contradicts reports from groups like Save our Schools Network and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development Inc. claiming personnel of the 75th Infantry Battalion have been intercepting food deliveries and limiting the entry of relief supplies to just a few sacks of rice.
 
One of the reports of the blockade came from an official of the local government itself.

"Food assistance from humanitarian aid workers could hardly get to the area as the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] imposed food blockade of that sort," Lianga councilor Sammy Dollano is quoted as saying in a Facebook post by volunteer teacher Chad Booc on December 1.

Save Our Schools, in a release on Friday, reiterated the presence of a blockade as reported in media.
 
"But instead of correcting their ways, the military only worsened the imposed blockade. They blocked Lumad locals who needed to go back to their community. A student who needed treatment from the lowlands was blocked from returning to the evacuation twice - on November 30 and December 2. They also did not allow the entry of four Lumad students on December 1," the group said.
 
 
SOS also accused the military of branding members of the indigenous peoples' rights group Maluhutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sumusunod (MAPASU or the Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation), Alcadev and Teachers from Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur as NPA supporters.

AFP: Most NPAs are Lumads

In the same press briefing, Padilla claimed that the military has found that "of every four armed members of the NPA, three are Lumads." He said that it is easier for the NPA, the bulk of which operate in eastern Mindanao, to recruit Lumads because they are "easier to fool."
 
He said that most IPs do not have access to education and are from urban centers, which makes them more susceptible to recruitment. "So that is what we have in the statistics now," he said.
 
Groups like SOS and Alcadev have put up alternative schools for Lumads in areas that are too remote for the Department of Education to serve.
 
Alcadev, for example, operates in the mountains of the Surigao and Agusan provinces, where regular schools can be as far as 20 kilometers away.
 
"It is no surprise that even before the year ends, many of the indigenous youth drop out of the school. Their parents could not keep up the high cost of transportation, food and lodging and other expenses necessary to finish even a year in high school. The indigenous youth also endure and most of the time get discouraged by the derogatory remarks and treatment from the lowlanders who consider them as second class citizens," Alcadev says on its website.
 
In a press briefing last month, the DepEd said it has met with administrators of Lumad schools to make it easier for them to get permits to operate. Among those measures is waiving a requirement for all teachers in a school to have licenses as long as the supervisor of the school is a licensed teacher. Schools are also expected to work towards having their teachers take licensure exams within three to five years.
 
Padilla said the military expects the NPA to amp up recruitment of Lumads with the scrapping of peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front.
 
"They will try to entice, they will make our indigenous peoples in the mountain go down to the city centers as evacuees and confront local governments and national governments and give demands, which they have been doing ever since," he said.

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