From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22): Army eyes deployment of elite force to Leyte
CATBALOGAN CITY, Samar -- Some members of the Army battalion recently formed to fight communist rebels will be deployed to Leyte province this year.
Major Gen. Raul Farnacio, commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division, confirmed the assignment on Thursday, but declined to reveal the number of troops from the 93rd Infantry Battalion (IB) to be sent and the specific timetable for the deployment.
The 93rd IB or the elite force is under the 8th Infantry Division.
Farnacio said the 93rd IB soldiers are currently undergoing six months of intensive training on counter-insurgency operations at Camp Fatima, in Bagacay village, Hinabangan Samar prior to deployment.
“This is to build their confidence and prepare the troops to go out and engage their enemies in the mountain areas of Jaro, Burauen and Albuera in Leyte where rebels have sought sanctuary and established defenses,” Farnacio told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
Eastern Visayas needs additional troops and soldiers from the 93rd IB, said Farnacio.
They will also be deployed to Samar Island after their mission in Leyte.
Leyte will be the priority for the deployment of the elite force as the New People’s Army from Samar Island has intensified its effort to retake its former strongholds in the mountains of Leyte.
The 93rd IB, also known as “Bantay Kapayapaan” (Peacekeeper), is headed by Lt. Col. Hilarion Palma and composed of 500 well-trained army officers and enlisted military personnel.
The NPA in Eastern Visayas has 403 active members with 577 firearms. It has five guerrilla fronts in Leyte and Samar and maintains its influence in 31 villages, according to the 4th quarter 2017 report of the Philippine Army to the Regional Development Council.
Meanwhile, Farnacio encourages local officials and other sectors to initiate dialogues between them and NPA members to open up opportunities to talk peace at the local level.
The Army, according to Farnacio, is ready to support the local peace talks despite countless of failed attempts to agree on peace deals.
“We do believe that if there is peace, progress and development would soon follow. Investors would come in and provide jobs to people in the region,” Farnacio said.