‘Reds collect P1.3B revolutionary taxes in Eastern Mindanao’

‘Reds collect P1.3B revolutionary taxes in Eastern Mindanao’

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/22 September)—An international peace group has revealed that businesses in Eastern Mindanao alone, a region with a strong mining industry, have allegedly lost at least P1.3 billion in “revolutionary taxes” to communist rebels last year.

International Alert, citing confidential sources, disclosed the figure on Saturday on the heels of the group’s call for the government to restart peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to avoid further economic as well as human losses.

Judy Gulane, International Alert Philippines communication specialist, said: “We continue to work with some economists at the UP (University of the Philippines) School of Economics in coming up with an estimate of the economic cost of the communist insurgency, then we will present this to the government,” she said.

In Davao City last week, International Alert called on the government to quickly reopen peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, CCP’s political wing, noting that businesses and local government units caught in the conflict have reported mounting economic and human losses.

“The government, together with those sectors directly affected by the conflict should work hand in hand to end the communist insurgency at the soonest possible time,” Francisco J. Lara Jr., country manager of International Alert, said in a statement.

This should be pursued even as the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front had struck a political settlement, he added.

Lara said the communist insurgency in the country, considered as the longest running communist insurgency in Asia, is exacting a higher toll than the Moro rebellion.

The communist rebellion ran longer and is affecting more provinces in the country, he said, stressing that in Mindanao, “it is a scourge in the Caraga Region, the Davao provinces and Compostela Valley.”

“Companies in these provinces are forced to pay millions in “revolutionary taxes” and have seen many of their facilities and equipment destroyed,” Lara said.

He added that “local governments cannot attract investments and tourists that should have boosted the local economy,” apparently due to the security risk posed by the communist insurgency.

The Aquino government has made several attempts since 2010 to restart peace negotiations with the communist rebels.

Informal talks last year were aimed at resuming formal negotiations but these eventually collapsed.

By focusing attention on the impact of the communist insurgency on business and local communities, International Alert said it hopes the government will exert more vigor and urgency in reviving talks with the communist rebels.

Local government officials and executives from agribusiness, mining and other industrial companies operating in the region attended the Davao forum last week. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)