Aims to end 50 years of insurgency

DAMAGED SCHOOLS. The heavy rains spawned by LPA and shearline that struck Northern Samar last week also destroyed several schools across the province, including in Catarman. Some of these schools are seeking help for them to repair the damaged facilities.(DepEd-Northern Samar)

TACLOBAN CITY– The top official of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity (OPAPRU) in Eastern Visayas welcomed the possibility of the resumption of peace talks between the national government and the communist group that could end the armed struggle.

Emy Bonifacio, regional coordinator of the OPAPRU, said that that she is optimistic that this time under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., the country could be free from its insurgency problem with Eastern Visayas among the regions that continue to experience.

On Tuesday (Nov. 28), the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) expressed willingness to resume peace negotiations and to come out with a final agreement to end the armed conflict.

Bonifacio said their office has been calling for the end of the armed struggle being waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines- National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) through its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

“As a reconciliatory office, we aim for the unification and end to this armed struggle. Enough with the demands from the NDF. Umaasa kami now that they’re losing forces and command in their areas, na magiging seryoso na sila,” she said.

“We will continue providing open spaces for their participation. With amnesty proclamations being issued and with this joint statement, I guess we are ending this five decades of armed struggle and we can move forward to further developing our vulnerable areas,” Bonifacio added.

Meantime, a top Army official in the region said that they hope to see the end of the insurgency in Eastern Visayas by engaging the families of NPA rebels.

B/Gen. Noel Vestuir, who is the commanding officer of the 802nd Infantry Brigade based in Borongan City, said that engaging the families of the rebels could result for the NPA members to return to the fold of the law without engaging them in an arm battle.

“For our part, we will continue our localized peace engagement activities with our FReE families program,” he said.

The FReE or friends rescued engagement through their families is a program conceptualized by the provincial government of Eastern Samar and the local Army to help address the insurgency problem by engaging the families of the active members by encouraging them to surrender.

Vestuir said that under the FReE program, 23 NPA members, 19 militia members, and 61 mass supporters have surrendered with 33 assorted firearms and 12 anti-personnel mines were surrendered.

Eastern Visayas, notably Samar Island, continue to struggle with insurgency problem with the province of Northern Samar considered the last bastion of the Maoist guerilla movement in the region.