THE 303rd Infantry Brigade (IBde) of the Philippine Army is intensifying its community support program (CSP) in central Negros amid the strong presence of suspected rebels in the area.
Colonel Benedict Arevalo, commander of 303rd IBde, said the New People’s Army (NPA) opted to stay in the central part of the island because it's considered a highway for Occidental and Oriental sides.
Arevalo said the rebels are trying to create a base somewhere in the boundaries because it's very important for them to connect and control both islands.
It's like grabbing Negros by the neck, he said, adding that they (rebels) would always try to be strong in the oriental side.
“But they know the military are very geographical. We will know where the enemy is,” Arevalo said.
The military has more deployment of forces in Negros Occidental because it serves as access of the NPA to the oriental side.
Arevalo said one of the army's thrusts is to provide more services to the people in deprived areas so they will no longer support the NPA.
That's why we're going down to the grassroots and reach out to them to hear their sentiments and address their concerns, Arevalo said.
Since the army has discovered their anniversary site in December last year, authorities claimed that masses and group of the rebel group slowly fell down.
“Nag weaken sila and marami ng mga tao ang nag-condemn sa kanila (They have weakened and more residents condemned them),” he added.
Arevalo said there were several armed men sightings but military operations continue to address the insurgency problem there.
We hope they (rebels) will get tired, he added.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Patricio Tomales, commander of the 15th Infantry Battalion (IB), said 29 out of 59 insurgency-affected villages in Negros Occidental are from the Chicks (Candoni, Hinobaan, Ilog, Cauayan, and Kabankalan and Sipalay) area.
Arevalo earlier told SunStar Bacolod that eight percent of the 700 barangays in the province are insurgency-affected.
Of the 29 villages, seven are most influenced and 22 are less-influenced.
“That’s why we are strengthening the CSPs to educate the people to stop supporting the rebels,” Tomales said.
“Do not be deceived by them,” he stressed.
Despite the number of insurgency-affected villages, Tomales assured the residents in his area of jurisdiction that there is nothing to worry about especially amid the approaching midterm elections because they continue their relentless combat and military operations.
“Kahit may sightings pa, humina na din naman na sila. Hindi na gaya ng dati dahil alam na ng mga tao ang ginagawa nila (Though there were sightings, they have weakened because people already knew their actions),” he said. (GYM)