Davao Oriental has been declared “insurgency-free’ following the series of successful peace and order initiatives that dismantled the remnants of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the province.
Brig. Gen. Oliver Maquiling, the Philippine Army’s 701st Infantry Brigade (IB) commander, described Wednesday the weakened NPA Guerrilla Front 18 (GF 18) as “dysfunctional and insignificant, with only two remaining insurgents left.”
Tuesday’s unanimous resolution by the members of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) said the province’s is “development-ready.”
Maquiling said the insurgency-free declaration was based on the result of the validation made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police (AFP-PNP) Joint Area Clearing Evaluation Board, and the AFP-PNP Joint Area Clearing Validation Committee.
“They can no longer implement the basic function of the front because they have no political and military structures to carry out their purposes of its creation,” the Army official said of the rebels.
Maquiling said the declaration meant that all areas of the province “are now cleared and no more influenced areas” for the NPA to exploit.
Apart from the focused military operations, Maquiling said the success in the government’s anti-insurgency campaign can be attributed to the convergence among government agencies jointly implementing peace and development programs.
He cited the stream of development projects under the Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict, which provided high-impact projects in communities such as roads, water systems, schools, and livelihood projects.
He noted that former mass NPA supporters, who are the lifeblood of the insurgents, were formed into people’s organizations currently engaged in income-generating activities.
“While the masses joined government-supported groups, the communist group could no longer infiltrate communities and recruit civilians. Currently, there are already 180 people’s organizations formed in the province,” Maquiling said.
Maj. Gen. Nolasco Mempin, the Army’s 10th Infantry Division chief, noted that all of Davao Region’s provinces have been declared insurgency-free.
Meanwhile, Governor Corazon Malanyaon said it was high time that the province is declared insurgency-free, especially since the provincial government’s thrust is on local tourism promotion.
“We have what it takes to be a premier tourist destination and Davao Oriental is worth visiting. But we also have to consider that the tourism industry is too sensitive to peace and order,” Malanyaon said.
Since 2016, 335 former rebels in the province have been enrolled under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program and processed at the Happy Home, a halfway house and transition home for rebel surrenderers.
Arian Jane Ramos alias Marikit, the former secretary of the NPA Guerrilla Front 55 in Southern Mindanao, said the success of the Davao Oriental’s peace and reconciliation efforts was also due to the decisiveness of the people in helping the AFP quell the insurgency.
“Davao Region is now insurgency-free. The decade’s long-awaited victory of the people of Davao Region under the dictatorship and violence of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF) has come to an end,” she said in an interview Wednesday.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
The NDF has been formally designated as a terrorist organization by the Anti-Terrorism Council on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA created in April 1973. (PNA)