Skills training offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) was availed of by at least 52 former members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) on Friday, as the surrenders continue their reintegration into mainstream society in Basilan province.
The 52 are part of the 272 former rebels from Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi who opted to avail of the Program Against Violent Extremism (PAVE) initiative. Under PAVE, surrederers are given livelihood skills training as they transition from their former lives to new ones reintegrated into society. According to Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) cabinet secretary, John Louie Balagot, the PAVE program is one of the initiatives that form the region’s intensified peace-building efforts combating terrorism.
PAVE has received a 20-million budget from ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman. Training courses in bread and party-making, welding, carpentry, and dressmaking are available to those who enroll in the program. Launched in April 2018, it is the region’s first model program for reintegration of former Moro rebels, and has been extended to cover providing assistance to returnees from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
“The trainees would also receive competency assessments, tool kits and food for the whole duration of the training,” Balagot, who is concurrent PAVE manager, said.
Apart from the free skills training, returnees under the PAVE project would also receive housing and food assistance under the ARMM’s Bangsamoro Regional Inclusive Development with Growth and Equity Program; Alternative Learning System classes under the ARMM’s education department; farm seedlings under the ARMM’s agriculture department; techno-training on chili production under the Department of Science and Technology; and membership to cooperatives under the Cooperative Development Authority.
Another vital aspect of the PAVE program is prevention. Under the project, affected communities, especially the youth and women among them, are engaged by the regional government to provide early intervention to radicalism.
The efforts of ARMM to providing holistic reintegration services has been recognized by the National Peace and Order Council. The regional government of ARMM has expressed hope that its projects would be included in the national government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program, which is aimed at achieving permanent peace and an end to all armed conflicts in the country.