FIFTY-FIVE villages in Negros Occidental are infested by rebel forces, a provincial official said.
During the security briefing of the Philippine Army with the Provincial Board Wednesday at the Capitol in Bacolod City, Third District Board Member David Lacson, chairman of committee on peace and order, said most of these villages are in the northern part of the province, including Escalante City, Toboso, and Calatrava.
Lacson said Colonel Inocencio Pasaporte, deputy commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Murcia town, told them that rebels still have influence in these communities.
The board member said the Army continues to strengthen its presence in the rebel hotspot areas.
Lacson said the New People's Army (NPA) in the province have “slightly increased” their number and weapons, according to the Army.
He cited the ambush in Negros Oriental last July, where six policemen of Guihulngan City Police Station, including its police chief, and a civilian were killed.
READ: 6 cops, civilian killed in Guihulngan City ambush
“Their recruitment continues,” Lacson added.
The policemen lost 15 firearms to the rebels during the Guihulngan ambush.
Last week, suspected members of the NPA also staged an ambush in Cauayan town, which injured two foreign nationals and their Filipino driver on their way to the neighboring Sipalay City. The rebels were targeting the policemen.
Even with the number of atrocities perpetrated by the rebels in the past weeks, Lacson remained optimistic with the peace and order situation in the province as the incidents are still “controllable.”
With the help of all concerned agencies, he said the authorities can “minimize” insurgency.
Lacson said that army units from Negros Island are being deployed to Mindanao to help the crisis in Marawi City.
“Hopefully, when the problem in Mindanao is done, the army units will be sent back here to augment our forces,” Lacson added.
Provincial Tourism Officer Cristine Mansinares said several foreign tourists have canceled their trips to Sipalay days after the ambush in Cauayan.
She said they felt “threatened” due to the incident.
Mansinares said that local tourists continue to visit and “patronize” the province.
The Provincial Board will meet with the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office led by Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Castil Jr. next week for a briefing on the crime and drug situation in the province.