BRIGADIER Gen. Jon Aying, commander of the Army's 303rd Infantry Brigade, refuted on Monday the claim of the New People's Army (NPA) that their number is increasing in Negros Occidental.

"The rebels can say what they want, but the truth that the government is prevailing will always come out," Aying said.

He added that military troops in Negros Occidental will continue to step up its peace and security efforts so that the province will eventually be declared peaceful and ready for further development.

Peace declaration is one of the Army’s priorities for the province this year, said Aying, who was recently promoted from colonel to brigadier general.

During its regular meeting in Bacolod City yesterday, the Provincial Peace and Order Council also declared the Second and Third Districts of the province as “peaceful and ready-for-further development districts.”

Earlier this year, the Fourth District in southern Negros was the first to be declared as such.

Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., chairman of PPOC, said the province is blessed with a relatively stable peace and order situation and it holds promise as an investment destination in central Philippines, evident in the number of investors coming to the province.

The governor congratulated the officials of the Second and Third Districts, both located in northern Negros, for making their areas “peaceful and ready for further development.”

Second District is composed of the cities of Sagay and Cadiz, and the Municipality of Manapla while the Third District is composed of the cities of Victorias, Silay, and Talisay, and the municipalities of E.B. Magalona and Murcia.

Aying said the absence of insurgency-related incidents for more than a decade and the positive indicators of improved delivery of basic social services are among the considerations for an area to qualify as peaceful and ready for further development.

The Department of Interior and Local Government - Negros Occidental gave a status report on the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (Clip) of Negros Occidental.

Meanwhile, First District Board Member Renato Gustilo, chairman of Provincial Board committee on peace and order and public safety, has proposed a resolution declaring Aying as an adopted son of Negros Occidental.

Other officials present during the PPOC meeting were Vice Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson, Second District Board Member Miller Serondo, Mayor Lourdes Escalante of Manapla, DILG Provincial Director Ma. Joy Maredith Madayag, and Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator Ma. Lina Sanogal.