NPA still a threat to Compostela Valley despite deployment of forces–military
TAGUM CITY—Military officials on Friday admitted that the communist insurgency remained a threat to the resources-rich province of Compostela Valley despite the deployment of forces from at least three Army brigades.
“Compostela Valley is the only province (in the country) in which the insurgency problem has not yet been totally addressed,” said Col. Casiano Monilla, commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade.
With the presence of large agribusiness plantations and small and medium-scale mining operations in the province, Compostela Valley is a “perpetually-contested area” between government security forces and the New People’s Army (NPA), he said.
The 1001st Brigade has three battalions in the province, the 46th, 25th and the 71st infantry battalions.
The 701st and the 1003rd infantry brigades also have troops that operate in other areas of the province.
At least P2.3 million in so-called revolutionary taxes are collected by the NPA in Compostela Valley every month, according to Capt. Rey Vergel Annogui, the 1001st Brigade’s information chief.
The collections allegedly come from banana plantations, business establishments and even politicians, as well as the thriving mining industry.
“The rebels will not just easily give up the province because of the huge resources they can get from here. Extortion money the NPA gets from here is funding the insurgency up to the national level,” Monilla said as he tried to illustrate how important the province is for the rebels.
Since January last year, the NPA has initiated 18 violent incidents such as abduction of civilians and government forces (six), bombings (five), burning of government and private equipment and facilities (five), assassinations (two) and ambuscade and robbery.
Annogui said their brigade dealt with two NPA sub-regional commands, with an estimated strength of 220 armed fighters spread over six guerrilla fronts and three mobile strike forces called Pulang Bagani (Red Warrior) Companies (PBCs).
Monilla said the mountain ranges separating Compostela Valley with neighboring provinces such as Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental, and the ease of crisscrossing these to evade punishing military operations contributed to the difficulty that security forces face in addressing the insurgency problem in the province.
But he said the military was banking on civic action programs under the Oplan Bayanihan or the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) to help solve the decades-old communist insurgency problem.
“We really have to double our efforts in clearing Compostela Valley of the communist insurgency,” said Monilla. “At least we minimized the number of villages now under the influence of the NPA.”
He said the NPA was also trying to gain more foothold as it had setup at least three “municipalities,” complete with governmental structures such as a mayor and other local functionaries.
These komiteng munisipyo (municipal committees) were in fact district revolutionary governments comprising several municipalities in the province’s two legislative districts, he said.
“These shadow municipalities already have a school, a sort of cooperative and several businesses, but with the income being taken by the communist movement,” Monilla said.
During a briefing with reporters at the brigade headquarters, Annogui said part of the brigade’s objective is to “de-influence” all of the 155 barangays of the province from the NPA by the first six months of the year.
Part of the efforts toward that, he said, included the strengthening of the relationship between the Army and local government units, businesses and other sectors and the conduct of peace and development outreach programs (PDOP) to far-flung communities.
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