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Army to block rebels’ plan to retake insurgent-free provinces

LIMASAWA, Southern Leyte - A military official vowed to block rebels’ effort to retake insurgent-free provinces in the Visayas even as they shift their thrust from combat operation to implementation of development projects.

Colonel John Bonafos, commander of 802nd brigade of the Philippine Army based in Camp Downes, Ormoc City, said they are stepping up their coordination with local government units and other government agencies to ensure that rebels will not regain their strength.
The brigade covers the insurgent-free provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, Southern Leyte, and Biliran. It is the only Philippine Army headquarters in the entire country with all covered areas officially declared as rebel-cleared.

“We will continue our support operations particularly in the development aspects needed by people. After we have attained peace, we will move to development phase like construction of classrooms, road repair, and road widening,” Bonafos said in the sidelines of the First Mass anniversary here.

Among the five provinces, Biliran was the first to gain the insurgent-free status with the joint declaration of the Army and local government unit in December 2008. 

Cebu and Bohol were cleared from rebel activities in March 2010. 

Insurgent-free classification of Southern Leyte and Leyte was pronounced in September and December 2011, respectively.

“The situation of these Visayas provinces exemplifies that we can attain the insurgent-free status through multi-stakeholders participation,” he said.

For insurgent-free areas, the military turned over the lead role in maintaining the internal security to its local executives and police. The military has set a six-month parameter as basis in declaring whether the area can be confirmed free of rebel’s threat. 

A province is categorized as insurgency-free when the threat posed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) is successfully downgraded into a mere law and order problem.

He said they will not allow the CPP-NPA to retake these provinces amid reports of new recruitment activities particularly in Cebu.

“The Army is counting on the support of local chief executives. If governors and mayors will participate, half of the problem is already solved,” Bonafos said.

The official also sought the help from the private sector since peace and order will not only affect government activities but business operations as well.

The crossfire incident in Kananga, Leyte that killed botanist Leonardo Co last November 2010 was the last encounter between government troops and insurgents recorded by the Philippine Army’s 802nd brigade under its command of responsibility.

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Leyte-Samar Daily Express | SunStar.Com.Ph | April 11, 2012 | Article Link

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