Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Army’s anti-NPA program engages 100 Eastern Visayas villages

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26, 2019): Army’s anti-NPA program engages 100 Eastern Visayas villages

COMMUNITY VISIT. Soldiers talk with residents of a remote community in Lope de Vega, Northern Samar covered by the Philippine Army Community Support Program. In the first six months of 2019, the program has reached out to 100 remote communities in Eastern Visayas in the bid to fight the decades-long insurgency. (Photo from FB page of Army 43rd Infantry Battalion)

The Philippine Army’s community support program (CSP) has reached out to at least 100 remote villages in Eastern Visayas region in the first semester of 2019 to fight the decades-long communist insurgency.

Lt. Col. Danilo Ambe, operations officer of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division, reported on Wednesday that they are stepping up the implementation of CSP as the central government aims to eradicate the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

In Samar province, there are 29 villages listed as CSP priority this year -- 11 in Calbiga town, three in Pinabacdao, one in Calbayog City, five in Motiong, seven in San Jose de Buan, one in San Jorge, and one in Matuguinao.

Of the 11 areas in Eastern Samar province, eight are in the municipality of Dolores and three in Can-vid town.

Northern Samar province has the widest CSP coverage with 30 villages. These include four in Catarman, five in Lope de Vega, one in Pambujan, one in Mondragon, six in Silvino Lobos, and 13 in Las Navas.

In Leyte province, the 22 villages engaged by the military can be found in Ormoc City, three; Calubian, four; San Isidro, five; Baybay City, one; Mahaplag, three; Inopacan, two; and Hilongos, four.

Although Southern Leyte province has been declared as insurgency-free, the military conducted CSP in eight villages of Bontoc town, considering that its upland villages have been tagged as possible entry points of fleeing rebels.

Earlier, the military reported that armed rebels have been attempting to move closer to Southern Leyte after they were “pressured by military operations” in Leyte province.

“The CSP aims to bring awareness to the people on the evils of CPP-NPA. Through this program, we can insulate communities vulnerable to NPA’s senseless ideology and recover areas influenced by them,” Ambe told the members of the Regional Task Force - End Local Communist Armed Conflict during an orientation at the National Economic Development Authority regional office here.

CSP deployments are meant to facilitate the government’s development programs by hearing issues and concerns of villagers and bring this to the attention of concerned government offices.

“We facilitate solutions for those identified problems through the convergence of efforts of different government agencies. This is one proof that ending insurgency is not just the work of the military,” Ambe added.

The Army said the communist terrorist group has 336 active members in Eastern Visayas Region with 558 firearms. The NPA has affected 31 villages, a small fraction of the region’s 4,390 villages.

From January 1 to June 25 this year, armed rebels initiated 12 violent attacks and 357 non-violent activities.

“The atrocities and other violent activities perpetrated by the communist NPA terrorists are not only to project an image of strength but as part of their extortions and intimidations since most of these activities were observed before the conduct of 2019 (mid-term) elections,” Ambe explained.

The CPP-NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The formation of the regional task force operationalizes Executive Order 70 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 4, 2018. The directive also institutionalizes a “whole-of-nation approach” in attaining an “inclusive and sustainable peace.”

Patterned after the national task force, the regional body is composed of heads of local offices of the departments of the interior and local government, justice, defense, public works, budget, finance, agrarian reform, social welfare, and education, as well as the military, police and local communication office.

Also listed as members are regional or provincial heads of the National Economic and Development Authority, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, as well as two representatives of the private sector.

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