Negros Island is getting two Army battalions in the next few weeks, as it remains a priority area for the clearing of communist New People's Army rebels, Brig. Gen. Dinoh Dolina, newly-designated commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said yesterday.
Negros Island and Iloilo are the remaining provinces in Western and Central Visayas that have yet to be declared insurgency-free, because of the presence of communist rebels in the hinterlands.
Dolina, with Brig. Gen. Eliezer Losañes, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, during a courtesy call yesterday with Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. disclosed that he is bringing one Army battalion to Negros within this month, and another one in early February.
The 3rd Infantry Division has three Army battalions stationed in Mindanao, including the 11th, 15th and 82nd, whose soldiers helped in the liberation of Marawi City from the ISIS-inspired Maute terrorist group.
Dolina noted that Negros Occidental has full resources available for Negrenses to enjoy prosperity. But it hampered by the peace and order situation, he added.
He said he intends to defeat the NPA in Negros and Iloilo by the end of 2018, targets that were also set but not accomplished by his predecessors during their stints as 3ID commander for almost three decades now.
Admitting that the CPP-NPA still has mass-based organizations in Negros because of still unresolved issues and root causes needing to be addressed, Dolina said, “That is why were are coordinating with the provincial governments of Negros) Occidental and Oriental), local government units and national government agencies, which have the capacities to resolves issues existing in the island”.
While they are focusing their efforts on Negros, Dolina, however, said they also make efforts to sustain their gains in the insurgency-free provinces of Western and Central Visayas, to prevent any attempts of the CPP-NPA to penetrate the cleared areas.
The 3ID is now finalizing the activation of 93rd Infantry Battalion, which Dolina said he may deploy it in Negros.
There are now two Army battalions, composed of about 1,000 soldiers, deployed in Negros Island, being supervised by the 303rd Infantry Brigade headed by Brig. Gen. Losañes.
As to human rights-related issues expected to be raised by front organizations of the CPP-NPA, as soon as additional Army troops arrive in Negros, Dolina, who previously served as a liaison officer of the AFP to Congress, said he noted that old human rights issues are always being revived, especially during congressional hearings.
He said there have been drastic changes and marked improvement in the image and credibility of the AFP, compared to several decades ago.
Dolina also lauded the all-out support extended by LGUs in Negros to the Army stationed in the two island provinces.
Aside from the 303IB in Negros, the 3ID has the 301st Infantry Brigade deployed in Dingle, Iloilo and the 302nd Infantry Brigade stationed in Bohol.
The military estimates that there about 500 armed NPA rebels operating in two Negros Island provinces, Iloilo and Capiz.* GPB
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