After over 5 years of fighting
TACLOBAN CITY– The insurgency problem in Eastern Visayas is practically over with only over 100 active New People’s Army (NPA) remaining who continue to fight with the government troops.
This was declared by Major General Camilo Ligayo, the commanding general of the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City in a press conference “Kapihan ha PIA” held at the regional office of the Department of Interior and Local Government, here on Wednesday (Jan.17).
Ligayo said that from the more than 500 rebels operating across the region five years ago, there are now only 119 ‘armed’ NPA rebels fighting with the government forces in Eastern Visayas.
“Yes, we can say that Eastern Visayas is almost insurgency-free. We have either dismantled or weakened existing communist fronts with only 119 active communist terrorists operating in the region, from more than 500 members four or five years ago…and they don’t have any controlled or influenced barangays,” he said.
He, however, stressed that they could not yet say if Eastern Visayas is totally insurgency-free due to the presence of the remaining active NPA rebels which they tagged as communist terrorists.
With the continued campaign, making Eastern Visayas, particularly Samar Island where most of the 119 rebels are operating, declaring the region as insurgency-free is just a matter of time, Ligayo said.
One town in Samar province, Pagsanghan, was declared as an insurgency-free area in December of last year, he said.
“And more towns are to make the same declaration,” Ligayo said.
Based on their record, just last year, 1,065 rebels and their supporters were either killed, arrested, or surrendered last year.
“That is a big number, last year the strength of the communist terrorist group was reduced by 1,065 in 2023,” Lt. Col. Joemar Buban, the head of the civil-military office of the 8th ID, said in the same media conference.
Buban said that during their operations last year, out of the 28 rebels killed, 14 of them were considered their leaders, making the armed group in the region without an acknowledged leader.
He also said that the more than 500 barangays in the region earlier considered as under the ‘influence’ are now classified as cleared’ or have been recovered by the government forces.
These once NPA lairs are being given security focus as the rebels are trying to recover them, Buban said.
Ligayo said that aside from their military operations, the cooperation being extended to them by former rebels who have returned to the fold of the law, and the support from the local government units were among the factors why they are fast gaining ground with their goal to stamp out the region from its insurgency problem.
The commanding general of the 8th ID said that the ‘whole-of-nation approach’ as mandated under Executive Order 70 issued by then president Rodrigo Duterte has played a vital role in their campaign.
Ligayo has called on the remaining rebels to surrender and live a normal life saying that with their numbers fast falling, they are practically outnumbered and outpowered by them.
“They cannot run from us. We have powerful drones to locate them,” he said.
JOEY A. GABIETA/ROEL T. AMAZONA