By Bobby Q. Labalan
SORSOGON CITY, July 12 (PNA) — The Philippine Army has set this yearend its schedule to reduce the communist-inspired rebels in the province of Sorsogon to insignificance, an indication that the government is winning the war, the top military commander in the province said yesterday.
Col. Cesar Idio, commanding officer of the 903rd Infantry Brigade which has jurisdiction over Sorsogon and Masbate, said Sorsogon will be declared as “conflict-manageable area and ready for further development (CMARFD)” before 2015 ends as the military focuses its attention to the province.
This means that the anti-insurgency campaign has shifted its focus to the province, he said.
Sorsogon and Masbate are the two remaining Bicol provinces which have not been declared yet as “conflict manageable areas” following the government’s intensified anti-insurgency campaign in the region.
The military has already declared the provinces of Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Camarines Sur and Albay as CMARFD.
Idio said the four provinces were the priority in previous years, based on the campaign plan of the Southern Luzon Command, which takes into account the strategic significance of the particular area.
Masbate is set to be declared as ”conflict manageable area” by next year, Idio said.
He said the Philippine National Police as well as the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) of the concerned province must be prepared to take a more significant role in the anti-insurgency campaign once it is declared as ”conflict manageable area”.
The Army commander said some of the parameters for such declaration are the significant reduction of insurgency-related activities, introduction of more development programs, increase in tourism, and the significant improvement in the security aspect of the area.
“This does not mean, though, that there is zero insurgency,” Idio clarified.
He said insurgency in Sorsogon and Masbate has been reduced significantly and the government campaign has rendered the NPA incapable of launching large-scale tactical operations.
“They’re still there but they are no longer capable of conducting significant military operation,” he said.
The Army official said even the number of cadres and their firearms have also been significantly reduced, forcing the NPA to conduct liquidation instead just “to sow terror in the community”.
“Those are desperate moves in an effort to make their presence felt,” he said, adding that the communities have repudiated the rebel organization.
He said that with the partnership forged by the Army with the Philippine National Police and the community, the total defeat of the insurgency is not far behind.
Idio was one of the guests at the turn-over ceremony of the police provincial command to Senior Supt. Marlon Tejada as the new police provincial director from the out-going director, Senior Supt. Bernard Banac in the middle of this week. (PNA)