The continuous opening and rehabilitation of roads undertaken by Philippine Army engineers in remote areas, coupled with military offensives, suppressed the movements of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) terrorists in the province of Zamboanga Del Sur.
Col. Emerito Pineda, commander of the Army’s 547th Engineer Battalion, underscored on October 1, 2020, the importance of infrastructure projects in helping eradicate insurgency in far-flung villages by accelerating the delivery of basic services and the government’s anti-poverty programs.
Pineda said a battalion from the Army’s 55th Engineer Brigade based in Baloi, Lanao del Norte, was sent to reinforce the 547th Engineer Battalion on Wednesday to undertake a road opening and rehabilitation project in barangays Datu Tutukan and Labangon in Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur.
Once completed, he said the project would put more pressure on the NPA rebels in Dumingag, the site of recent clashes between the government troops and the rebels.
“Once development reached their communities, NPA recruitment and support will stop and basic services could reach these isolated communities as they have now their roads,” he said.
Pineda also called on the remaining NPA rebels to surrender, lest they “face the might of the military. They could either get wounded or worse, killed in encounters.”
Labangon Barangay chairperson Fermin Anggi said the road project responds to their needs, especially in transporting farm produce to the market.
Anggi said the farmers in the village could hardly support the daily needs of their family since the high cost of transportation in bringing the farm produce to the market eats up almost all their earnings.
“This would also limit the visits of armed groups that in the past would ask for support from the residents. However, in recent months, with the presence of the military, they only pass by our area,” Anggi said.
Labangon is seven kilometers from Barangay Datu Tutukan, the nearest trading center. The farm products are transported via motorcycles, horses, or water buffalo, the village leader said.
Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Jo-ar Herrera, commander of the Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion, said of the 32 original members of the Main Regional Guerrilla Unit (MRGU), only seven remain in hiding in the hinterlands.
Herrera said the rest of the members of the MRGU were either killed or arrested.
“We are still after the seven members of the MRGU operating in parts of Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga del Norte. We either talk to their family to convince them to surrender or continue hunting them in the hinterlands,” Herrera said. (PNA)