Governor seeks unity in crisis

Dumaguete City — Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo expressed confidence on Wednesday that a unified approach to end insurgency is the best strategy to address the 50-year rebellion of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPANDF).

Of all the four provinces in Central Visayas, only Negros Oriental remains to be confronted with insurgency while Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor are now “insurgency-free”, he said.

The President’s Executive Order aims to address the security threats through a Whole-of-Nation approach and the creation of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in Negros Oriental. NTFELCAC is part of this strategy. At the local level, the PTF-ELCAC will carry out the scheme.

The PTF-ELCAC aims to eliminate armed conflict, harmonize the plans, programs, and actions of national government agencies, and foster community participation.

Degamo, chair of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTFELCAC), called on the various national government agencies that were formed into 12 clusters to collaborate and work closely, to achieve their individual and shared targets and accomplishments in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70.

Priority areas under the PTF-ELCAC are 16 barangays in seven towns and cities in Negros Oriental that were initially identified by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) based on certain parameters.

These are Barangays Bayog and Lumapao in Canlaon City; Trinidad, Binobohan, Sandayao, Tacpao, Imelda, Hinakpan, Humay-humay, and Planas in Guihulngan City; Dobdob in Valencia; San Pedro and Talalak in Sta. Catalina; Tayak in Siaton; Calango and Mayabon in Zamboanguita; and Ayungon town.

No barangay was identified yet in Ayungon because its inclusion came late but the PTF-ELCAC wanted it included because of the July 18 murders of four police intelligence officers in Sitio Yamot, Barangay Mabato of that town.

“I believe we are the first province to form the PTF-ELCAC and for the meantime, the funds for its organization are taken from the province’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (DRRMO),” Degamo said.

“But we are requesting the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for PHP5 million for the implementation of the different clusters’ activities,” he added.

The PTF-ELCAC convened for its first seminar- workshop at the Visionairre’s Lounge of the Negros Oriental Convention Center here on Wednesday to identify the problems/issues, interventions, and target audience for each cluster.

Spearheaded by the Department of Interior and Local Government Unit (DILG), with provincial DILG chief Dennis Quiñones in the lead, the seminar-workshop aims to come up with the clusters’ plans and programs of action before the official launch of the PTF-ELCAC on Aug. 15.

During the seminarworkshop, Mayor Peve Ligan of Sta. Catalina raised questions as to the non-inclusion of Barangay Talalak in the adjacent town of Sta. Catalina in the original list, noting that this remote hinterland village is well known for being affected by the insurgency.

Brig. Ignacio Madriaga, commander of the 3rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Tanjay, Negros Oriental, told the body that the list is not final because it can change anytime depending on the prevailing situations.

“So you can help us assess and validate kung ano yung pwedeng tanggalin at ano ang pwedeng isali (which barangays can be removed and which ones can be added)” in the list of conflict areas,” Madriaga told local government officials.

He said local officials are the ones who have firsthand knowledge of the prevailing situations in their communities, and he assured that even with their continuous assessment of the province, they would welcome their inputs.

While other areas in the country are still organizing their Task Force ELCACs at the regional level, Madriaga stressed their need to “fast-track its creation with the full support of the governor and other politicians so that we can launch it soon.”

He said the main issue of the NPA is related to agrarian reform, “because the CPP-NPA is agrarian (issues)-based.”

Meanwhile, on motion of the governor and approved by the body via a resolution, the Diocese of Dumaguete, headed by Bishop Julito Cortes, and the Negros Oriental Network of Non-government Organizations or NegorNet have been included as members of the PTF-ELCAC to represent the private sector.

Degamo also expressed confidence of support from the Provincial Board, with Vice Governor Edward Macias sitting as co-chair of the PTFELCAC and his brother, Board Member Erwin Macias, chairman of the Committee on Peace and Order, as a member.

The two provincial officials have different party affiliations and have not been seeing eye-to-eye on many issues but the governor said he and Macias agree to resolve the insurgency problem in Negros Oriental.

“I also think that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan members will be much willing to support us because this is everybody’s concern,” he said. (By Mary Judaline Partlow -Philippine News Agency)