BRIEFING. Brigadier General Joey Escanillas, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, presents the current communist insurgency situation in Negros Oriental on Thursday, November 9, 2023. A memorandum of agreement was signed on the same day involving local government units through their mayors and barangay officials to be proactive in the fight against the insurgency.
BRIEFING. Brigadier General Joey Escanillas, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, presents the current communist insurgency situation in Negros Oriental on Thursday, November 9, 2023. A memorandum of agreement was signed on the same day involving local government units through their mayors and barangay officials to be proactive in the fight against the insurgency. PNA photo by Mary Judaline Flores Partlow)

Mayors, village chiefs urged to step up anti-insurgency campaign

LOCAL chief executives and barangay officials in Negros Oriental are expected to step up their individual and collective efforts to stamp out the communist insurgency in their areas after the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) on Thursday, November 9, 2023, an Army official said.

Brigadier General Joey Escanillas, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, said in an interview that the agreement identifies the specific roles of the local government units (LGUs) and barangay officials in assisting law enforcement units in addressing the insurgency problem.

Escanillas noted that in the current provincial government-led program to end local communist insurgency, some local executives appeared to be not proactive enough.

“Actually, the main role in the anti-insurgency fight should be with the mayors because many of the members of these communist terrorist groups are their constituents,” he said.

The issues and concerns raised by these insurgents have to be addressed first and foremost by the LGUs and barangays through their officials while the military and the police are tasked to deal with the problem through armed operations, Escanillas added.

The city, municipal, and barangay officials, he said, know their constituents better and have linkages with them, making it easier to reach out to them and address their issues.

The usual issues raised by the communist groups against the government, such as land, delivery of basic services, and project implementation, ought to be given attention to prevent the resurgence of the insurgency in their areas, Escanillas said.

The MOA between the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Provincial Peace and Order Council, and city and municipal mayors in Negros Oriental aim to come up with harmonized programs and projects to eradicate the insurgency problem.

It also calls on the LGUs to activate their respective Local Peace Engagement efforts to reach the grassroots level.

The agreement also stipulates that mayors and even barangay officials, in a proactive role, would initiate the filing of cases against persons financing terrorism; monitor and report to the AFP or PNP the presence of suspected urban-based communist groups and their activities; coordinate with the security sector in verifying groups that may have links to the rebel groups; and establish a systematic referral of primary local issues, among others.

Escanillas said there is a monthly reporting system for the mayors regarding their undertakings to carry out the MOA.

No mayor was present during the activity, which Escanillas said was due to the late delivery of invitation letters. They, however, sent their representatives.

Escanillas said he is looking at replicating this system of coordination among the security sector, the LGUs, and barangays in Negros Occidental, a portion of which is part of his brigade’s area of operation.

Latest batch of villages to get SBDP funding

Meanwhile, 34 villages in Negros Oriental have been identified this year for Inclusion in the Local Government Support Fund – Support to Barangay Development Program (LGSF-SBDP).

This brings to 80 the total number of barangays in Negros Oriental listed for funding as part of the whole-of-nation approach to ending local communist armed conflict, Armand Mangubat of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) - Negros Oriental said Thursday.

The new batch would be included in the 2024 SBDP funding, Mangubat, the alternate focal person for the Re-tooled Community Support Program (RCSP) of DILG-Negros Oriental, said in an interview.

In the meantime, they are undergoing training and other activities through the RCSP that would assist them in drafting their plans and programs for implementation.

These barangays were previously declared by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police as conflict-free.

Of the number, Valencia has the highest number with 14 barangays, with the rest distributed in Mabinay, Siaton, Sta. Catalina, Dauin, Bayawan City, and this capital city.

Mangubat said barangays who qualified for the SBDP would receive P4 million each for the implementation of their individual plans and programs.

Most barangays proposed the construction of farm-to-market roads and water systems, as well as the repair of school buildings.

Initially, under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, each barangay was to receive P20 million but this was later reduced to P4 million. (PNA)

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