Army identifies 54 Samar barangays as anti-insurgency program priorities

The Philippine Army recently identified 54 barangays or villages in Samar provinces, Eastern Visayas as priority areas for the delivery of projects and services from anti-communist programs of the newly created Regional Task Force on Ending Insurgency in the Philippines.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT PROGRAM. A female soldier serves food to children during the conduct of a community support program in an upland village in Lope de Vega, Northern Samar. The activity aims to facilitate the government’s development programs with the army hearing issues and concerns of villagers and bringing them to the attention of concerned government offices. (Photo courtesy of Army 43rd Infantry Batallion)

“We have submitted the first batch of barangays (villages) and the corresponding issues that should be addressed by different clusters. We believe that we cannot end insurgency with just military operations. It needs a whole-(of)-nation approach,” Brig. Gen. Eliezer Losañes, assistant commander of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division, said on July 18, 2019.

Government agencies should immediately address the concerns of these communities to counter the influence of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), BGen. Losañes said.

BGen. Losañes said 28 of the 54 barangays are threatened by the CPP-NPA terrorist group while 26 are vulnerable to armed struggle.

These barangays are located in Can-avid and Dolores in Eastern Samar; Calbiga, Pinabacdao, Basey, San Jose de Buan, Gandara, Matuguinao, and Calbayog City in Samar; Las Navas, Mondragon, Lope de Vega, and Catarman in Northern Samar.

The Philippine Army provided a list of needs through their Civil-Military Operations community support program, an initiative of the military to facilitate the government’s development programs by hearing issues and concerns of villagers and bringing them to the attention of concerned government offices.

Among the issues raised were land titling, poor infrastructure, absence of water and electricity, poor health services, poor irrigation system, classroom shortage, lack of livelihood opportunities, poor access of farmers to market, high farming production costs, lack of toilet facilities, absence of post-harvest facilities, political discrimination, and the very low price of copra.

The military handed the said list of specific areas and issues over to concerned government agencies in the Regional Task Force on ending local communist and armed conflict. The said government agencies are mandated to implement long-term projects that are needed in the Philippine Army’s anti-insurgency programs.

BGen. Losañes reminded the government agencies to immediately act on these concerns to completely put an end to insurgency in Samar Island during a recent workshop at the office of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in Tacloban City.

“If the government fails to deliver what is expected, it would be an opportunity for (the) NPA to find fault and encourage people in upland areas to join the rebellion,” BGen. Losañes said.

Director of NEDA 8 (Eastern Visayas) Meylene Rosales said the region would be able to resolve the decades-long insurgency through convergence efforts by the task force. “Peace and order should have tailor-made solutions with all government resources available. We were told to realign budget this year and propose a new budget for next year to attain our goals,” Rosales said.

President Rodrigo Duterte issued Executive Order 70 on December 4, 2018, creating the said Regional Task Force, institutionalizing a “whole-of-nation approach” in attaining an “inclusive and sustainable peace.”

The regional body is composed of heads of local offices of the departments of the interior and local government, justice, agriculture, defense, public works, budget, finance, agrarian reform, social welfare, and education, as well as the military, police and local communication offices.

Regional or provincial heads of the NEDA, 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, are listed members of the Regional task Force.

The CPP-NPA, which has been waging an armed struggle against the government for more than 50 years is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (Source: Sarwell Meniano, Philippine News Agency)

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