MATI CITY—In celebration of Davao Oriental’s “insurgency-free” status, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU) Eastern Mindanao handed over sacks of rice to 495 Friends Rescued (FRs).

The event, held here on Wednesday at the Provincial Capitol, gathered government officials, military representatives, former rebels, community leaders, and other stakeholders who have been instrumental in the province’s vastly improved peace and security condition.

“The ceremonial turnover of rice to our Friends Rescued (FRs) symbolizes our commitment to assisting them in their journey towards reintegration and providing them with the support they need to rebuild their lives,” OPAPRU Eastern Mindanao Director Atty. Elisa D. Evangelista-Lapiña said in her message during the celebration.

Lapiña said the province’s “insurgency-free” status is a testament of its hard-won gains, leading to greater peace, stability, and progress for its residents.

“The insurgency-free status of Davao Oriental is a significant achievement that demonstrates the power of unity, dialogue, and genuine collaboration. We applaud the province for its resilience and dedication to achieving peace. OPAPRU Eastern Mindanao is proud to support this endeavor and stands ready to assist in any way possible to ensure lasting peace and prosperity,” Lapiña said.

On September 19, 2023, members of the Provincial Peace and Order Council passed a resolution unanimously declaring Davao Oriental as “insurgency-free and development-ready.”

Lapiña also reaffirmed the OPAPRU’s continuing commitment to aid Davao Oriental in its journey toward long-lasting peace and sustainable development.

She said, “OPAPRU recognizes the dedication of Davao Oriental in achieving and sustaining the gains of peace. We pledge to continue supporting the province in various ways, ensuring that the fruits of peace reach every community.”

Lapiña emphasized the importance of holistic and focused development interventions in preserving the dividends of peace, saying, “Our focus is not only on the absence of violence but also on the presence of prosperity, education, and social welfare. We will work hand-in-hand with local leaders, stakeholders, and communities to build a more inclusive and peaceful future for Davao Oriental.”

Meanwhile, Oliver Binancilan, OPAPRU Project Development Officer V, said the 495 sacks of rice were distributed to leaders and members of various people’s organizations (POs) on Tuesday who took part in the Davao Oriental’s ‘insurgency-free’ celebration.

“This gesture symbolized not only the OPAPRU’s commitment to support their transition but also the hope for a brighter future for our Friends Rescued and their families,” Binancilan stressed.

For his part, Davao Oriental Governor Niño Sotero L. Uy, Jr. thanked OPAPRU for its continuously supporting Davao Oriental’s peacebuilding initiatives, as he emphasized the importance of unity in achieving and maintaining peace in the province.

The OPAPRU closely works with line agencies, LGUs and other local stakeholders to build a more peaceful and prosperous future for residents of communities, particularly those situated in conflict-affected and conflict vulnerable areas.

The “insurgency-free” celebration in Davao Oriental serves as a beacon of hope and a testament to all that much can be achieved through unity, understanding, and cooperation. ###