March 18, 2019

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), through its regional offices, has rolled out activities under the project called Rural Employment for Social Equity in support of President Rodrigo Duterte’s advocacy in reintegrating rebel returnees, drug surrenderers, Indigenous Peoples (IPs), and other special clients back to the society by providing access to quality technical-vocational education and training.

The Agency is one with the President's call to help these special clients affected by the armed conflict. All recently launched Rural Employment for Social Equity projects are in accordance with the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), Executive Order No. 70 known as the "Task Force Balik-Loob," and Administrative Order No. 10 which took effect in July 2018.

Under these orders, all rebel returnees who submit to firearms remuneration and express “their desire to abandon the armed struggle and become productive members of society” will receive benefits like livelihood training and assistance, immediate and reintegration assistance, legal assistance, and medical and psychosocial aid. These also cover other special clients like IPs.

In connection, TESDA is on full swing to help the former rebels gain skills training and national certificates for competencies they need the most to start a life outside the armed communities.

On March 11, TESDA-Isabela launched its own “From Arms to Farms” project under the said Social Equity project in partnership with the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in the province. 25 former rebels will be receiving training on Organic Agriculture Production NC II for 29 days within the camp. 

TESDA – Bohol, also on March 11, started skills training in Masonry, Carpentry, Electrical Installation and Maintenance, Welding, Bread and Pastry Production and Food Processing for 125 former rebel-beneficiaries in Camp Rajah Sikatuna in Carmen, Bohol.

Also, TESDA offices in Masbate and Bukidnon provinces are currently working to conduct site visit and planning for another skills training for special clients.

In Masbate, TESDA is currently profiling 124 former rebels for skills training.

TESDA is also assisting graduates for possible employment after their training. TESDA-Region XI reported that 33 scholars are to be hired from their own social equity project.

To be also more efficient and sustainable, like other TESDA training programs, qualified graduates can also be trainers. In Davao del Sur, a trainers' training for the Agila Division of the Army in Davao is already ongoing.

TESDA is actively involved in promoting social equity, inclusion, peace, and development for the special clients, including the former rebels. The office of the Communities and Local Government Units Services(CLGUS) under Deputy Director General Gaspar S. Gayona has been tasked to organized meetings on peace talks and other peace initiatives with the concerned sector.

In addition, to strengthen partnership and the Agency’s peace advocacy, TESDA Regional Director Dr. Florencio Sunico, Jr. of Caraga Region and Provincial Director Rey Cueva of Region XI - Surigao del Sur, joined Tagbina town Mayor Generoso Naraiso, the officials from the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Business Permit Licensing Office (BPLO), Municipal Treasurer’s Office (MTO) and Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) in the community dialogue in the far-flung areas of Surigao del Sur also last March 11.

TESDA chief Secretary Isidro Lapeña has previously announced a recent skills training launch for 2,000 MILF rebel returnees, 1,800 drug surrenderers, and 1,000 Higaonon IPs that are mostly from Lanao del Sur. These special clients and their families are set to receive free training in technical-vocational institutions (TVIs) in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City with the following courses: agriculture, agri-crop production, small engine mechanic, baking, carpentry, food processing, fabrication, welding, machinery, and others.

TESDA officials visited Camp Darul Arqam and one MILF satellite camp in Lanao del Sur last February 7 to discuss the livelihood and skills training that the group can avail for free. Qualified MILF members will also be trained to become trainers in areas of construction and agriculture.

In 2018, data showed that there were 1,259 former rebels who enrolled in various free tech-voc training programs from TESDA and 972 successful graduates.

Lapeña’s has also directed all regional and provincial directors of the agency to take further relevant steps to facilitate the employment or livelihood of the former rebels after their training.