The Army's 3rd Infantry Division is targeting Negros Island Region to be insurgency-free by next year, after declaring the two Negros provinces to be peaceful and ready for further development, its commander, Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, said yesterday.
“We are working towards the neutralization of the remaining armed elements in the area,” said Guerrero, who was among the guests at the 29 th founding anniversary of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, at Camp Maj. Nelson Gerona in Murcia, Negros Occidental.
The target to declare Negros Island Region, also known as Region 18, as insurgency-free by middle of next year, was set by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he said.
After Negros Occidental was declared as “peaceful and ready for further development” in June this year, it has continued to be a violence-free province, without any terroristic activities by the New People's Army remnants, so far, military records show.
Guerrero, who supervises the internal security operations in Negros and Panay, claimed that the target set for the NIR is “doable”, considering that the number of NPA members has already dropped.
This time, we have the support of local government units and local chief executives, with our very aggressive effort to push for development in the countryside, he said.
The military estimates that there are still about 200 armed NPA members operating in Negros Island, from a peak of more than 1,000 fighters in the 1980s.
With the deployment of Bayanihan teams in the countryside, we were able to help address poverty, injustice and other reforms sought by the people, Guerrero said.
Asked how they will contain the NPA remnants who are engaged in guerrilla warfare and avoiding armed confrontations to preserve their forces, he said it can be done not only by military means, but also through social pressure, coming from communities.
We are hoping that the introduction of social reforms and development programs in conflict-affected communities will help the rebels realize the futility of their armed struggle, since we are giving them options for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, Guerrero said.
This is also an opportunity for them to reunite with their families and be part of mainstream society, he added.*GPB
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