MANILA - Environment Secretary Gina Lopez believes working with communist rebels in developing communities is a way to achieving lasting peace.
In a Facebook Live Q&A Sunday, Lopez said she is confident that working with the New People's Army (NPA) will lead to the rebels' laying down of arms.
Lopez said she is eyeing the creation of peace zones where both rebels, soldiers and government employees can work together for community development.
"I truly feel that the way for them to lay down their arms and the way to peace is to create peace zones, wherein in these peace zones, walang mag-aaway dito," she said.
Lopez earlier said she wants to work with the rebels in developing communities in in Agusan del Norte province.
She described the rebels she personally knows as former clergymen, seminarians and members of the academe, who were frustrated with a corrupt government.
"In frustration, they went up to the mountains and led very hard lives," she said.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has been waging one of Asia's longest-running Maoist insurgencies.
CPP Founder Jose Ma. Sison already welcomed Lopez's plan to tap rebel fighters for peace and development projects.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), on the other hand, cautioned Lopez on her plan, suggesting that she instead tap "real champions of change," referring to government forces.