The clearing of remnants of armed insurgents in Negros Occidental may temporarily take a back seat for now, as the effort of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division is now focused on Panay island, that include Iloilo and Capiz.
“We intend to finish it by the yearend,” Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, newly-installed commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division, said.
The provinces of Negros Oriental, Antique and Aklan have been declared as “conflict manageable and development ready” by the Philippine Army, with Iloilo, Capiz and Negros Occidental to follow soon, Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri said yesterday.
Iriberri ordered Guerrero to sustain the momentum and gains of his predecessor, Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, who will assume as commanding general of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command today.
Guerrero said the 303rd Infantry Brigade managed to reduce significantly violent incidents, including armed threats, perpetrated by the NPA in Negros Occidental.
He, however, encouraged commanders and their troops to remain vigilant, and make sure to sustain their gains, to prevent the resurgence of armed threats in their areas.
Col. Jon Aying, 303rd IB commander, had earlier declared that they are “winning the peace” in Negros Occidental, using non-traditional military approaches, that include social, economic, political and even justice reforms, in addressing the insurgency problem in the province.
After clearing Iloilo and Capiz, Negros Occidental will be next, Guerrero said.
He, however, said they do not expect additional forces in Negros and Panay, as the priority areas for clearing are in Caraga and Davao regions in Mindanao.
“But we have been consistently asking and requesting higher headquarters for additional forces in Visayas, especially now that we have completed our campaign in Negros Oriental,” Guerrero, who had served as the Philippine Army chief of staff, said.
Iriberri, meanwhile, said the campaign in Negros and Panay is on track.
“We are confident about our target to make the NPA remnants to become inconsequential in the coming years”, he added.
He added the modernization of the Philippine Army will help them a lot, not only in terms of equipment, but also its impact on the morale of the troops.