After more than four decades of battling communist rebels in Samar, the governor of this impoverished province announced on Monday that the efforts had reached a step close to a complete rout.
Samar, once the bastion of insurgency in Eastern Visayas in the 1980s, is now “a manageable conflict and development-ready area,” Gov. Sharee Ann Tan said during a program to celebrate the province’s 174th founding anniversary on the Capitol grounds here.
“We can now say to the country and even to the whole world that we are now ready for development. That with the declaration, we can now (openly) invite them to come to (our province),” Tan said in an interview.
She, however, said that the declaration, which is the next step before the military declares an area “insurgency-free,” would not mean that soldiers were no longer needed in the province, which has two cities and 24 towns.
“They will not leave us; that’s the biggest point that we have stressed,” Tan said.
On Aug. 7, the provincial board approved Ordinance No. 14-012-14, which proclaimed Samar as a manageable conflict and development-ready area. The declaration will be further formalized once an agreement is signed between Tan and Maj. Gen. Jet Velarmino, commanding general of the 8th Infantry Division which is based in this city.
Velarmino said the declaration would mean that New People’s Army (NPA) rebels could no longer launch any major attack.
“Their capability to launch a major attack is downgraded. They could no longer confront us head on except to use their old tactic of launching ambuscades,” he said.
He said the local government units were the ones that make such declarations, which the Army supports and validates.
In Eastern Visayas, only the provinces of Biliran and Southern Leyte have been declared insurgency-free, while Leyte has been categorized as manageable and development-ready.
Velarmino said the remaining provinces of Eastern Samar and Northern Samar would soon be declared manageable and development-ready before 2016, the timetable set by the government to end the country’s insurgency problem.
The presence of NPA rebels in the region still reeling from the devastation caused by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” has been cited often as one of the big factors for its slow development.