The Philippine Army is seriously looking at declaring the province of Negros Oriental insurgency free at the earliest possible time even with the presence of “remnants” of the rebel New People's Army in the northern part of the province.
Depending on how fast the Philippine Army in the province can finish the documentation, the insurgency free declaration could be any time this year at the earliest, military officials said.
Negros Oriental was declared about a year ago as conflict manageable and development ready after law enforcement agencies announced the insurgency problem was reduced to an insignificant level.
Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, chief of the 3rd Infantry “Spearhead” Division based in Jamindan, Capiz, reported this recently and commended the joint efforts by law enforcement agencies, the provincial government and other stakeholders to set and implement the framework for lasting peace.
“We are very confident and positive about this (declaration of Negros Oriental as insurgency free) as can be seen in the efforts of law enforcement agencies and with support of local government agencies, slowly but surely we are able to make significant gains in the improvement of peace and order” in the province,” he added.
Guerrero also said he has discussed this with Col. Allan Martin, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, and the province could be declared insurgency free any time soon or, “optimistically, in 2016”.
Guerrero, who was at Tuesday's turnover of financial assistance to former NPA rebels in Dumaguete City, said he was impressed with the number of beneficiaries.
There were 33 beneficiaries who received P65,000 each as Immediate Assistance and Livelihood Assistance under the CLIP at rites led by Governor Roel Degamo at the Negros Oriental Convention Center.
However, Guerrero said that the northern part of Negros Oriental, specifically Guihulngan City, is still problematic with “remnants” of the NPA's South East Front mostly operating there and continue to make their presence felt although “minimal”.
But, he said they continue to enjoy the support of barangay officials and residents, who are cooperating by reporting the presence of lawless elements in their areas.*JFP
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