In Northern Samar

SECURITY. The Philippine Army has declared the island town of Biri as stable internal peace and security (SIPS), becoming the latest area in Northern Samar to declared as SIPS. The town is known largely of its iconic rock formations.(PHOTO COURTESY)

TACLOBAN CITY – The declaration of Biri, an island municipality in Northern Samar, as having a stable internal peace and security (SIPS) is still a work in progress, according to Mayor Amelita Balanquit-Delos Reyes during this week’s SIPS declaration ceremony.
Biri is the second island town in Northern Samar to receive this designation from the 803rd Infantry Brigade, following Capul. It is also the fifth municipality in the province to achieve SIPS status, joining Allen, San Jose, and Rosario.

“This milestone is not just a mere proclamation; it is a testament to the resilience and determination of our community,” Mayor Delos Reyes said.

She emphasized that this achievement is the result of collective resolve, dialogue, reconciliation, and cooperation among the residents.

The SIPS declaration indicates that there has been no reported insurgency presence or activities for one year. However, the municipality is not completely insurgency-free, as there are still remnants of guerrilla fronts targeted by ongoing military operations.

Brigadier General Efren Morados, commanding officer of the 802nd Brigade, noted attempts by the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) to recruit members and organize communities in Biri.

These attempts were unsuccessful, according to Morados.

“Addressing and eradicating the problem of insurgency in Samar Island, particularly in Northern Samar, is crucial because this area is part of the revolutionary highway. Northern Samar’s strategic location is significant for the CPP/NPA’s campaign to expand their influence,” he said.

Morados added that their goal is to encourage local government units to participate actively in the government’s anti-insurgency drive through a whole-of-nation approach, addressing the root causes of community issues exploited by the CPP-NPA.

“Our vision is to declare the entire Northern Samar as SIPS because we want to change the province’s image from being tagged as the last bastion of insurgency,” the Army general stated.

Improving Biri’s image is essential for its tourism promotion and marketing.
Biri is a top tourist destination in Northern Samar and the Eastern Visayas region, known for its rock formations dating back 24 million years, as identified by the National Institute of Geological Sciences Research of the University of the Philippines.

Last year, Biri was listed among regional cruise destinations catering to international tourists. The 5th class municipality, divided into eight villages, faces the Pacific Ocean to the east and San Bernardino Strait to the west, accessible by a two-hour motorboat ride from a port in Lavezares town.

Besides its famous rock formations, Biri, part of the Biri Larosa Protected Landscape and Seascape, boasts several dive sites and surfing areas.