Davao Oriental Getting Closer to Being Insurgency-Free by End of 2021

The Province of Davao Oriental is getting closer to its goal of being declared insurgency-free, says top officials of the province following the recent breakthroughs on peace and security here.

Governor Nelson Dayanghirang, who has been eyeing to achieve zero insurgency in the province by the end of the year, said he is pleased to see the provincial government is finally beginning to reap the rewards of its efforts and sacrifices in the fight against the Communist insurgency.

“It has been a long time that we had suffered from the horrors of the armed conflict, but today we are happy that we are now nearing our goal of achieving genuine peace in the province,” said Governor Dayanghirang in a recent press conference.

Earlier this November, high-ranking officials of the Communist-Terrorist New People’s Army have surrendered to the government troops.

Ex-Commander of the Guerrilla Front 18 Johnny, his Front Secretary Domai, and three other comrades are now under the custody of the authorities and are now set to receive scores of benefit packages from the government’s programs for former rebels.

With their surrender, only a few NPA members are now left operating in the hinterlands of Davao Oriental, said 701st Brigade Commander Col. Oliver Maquiling. His statement was concurred by Former NPA Commander Johnny, who accounted that only about 17 of his comrades are left.

Barely standing, Guerilla Front 18 is the only NPA front left operating in the Brigade’s area of operation. And without officials to lead them, Guerilla Front 18 is now further weakened, said Col. Maquiling.

With this development, the army official is optimistic that there is a big possibility that the province will be insurgency-free by the end of the year. “We already have around 90-95 percent success rate. There’s only a tiny gap. We only need to work together to achieve our goal,” he added.

Since 2016, more than 300 NPA rebels in the province have abandoned the insurgent life and returned to the law’s folds.

Most of these rebels came from previously dismantled guerrilla fronts in the province, including the Guerilla Front South consisting of the Pulang Bagani Command 8 and Guerilla Front 15. They also dismantled Guerilla Front North consisting of the Guerilla Front 25 and 20.

Col. Maquiling said this massive dismantling was because the Communist group had already lost their mass bases and supporters.

“We have turned mass supporters into thriving People’s Organizations who are receiving a downpour of government support in the form of livelihood assistance,” said Col. Maquiling. “They (NPA) could no longer organize their mass supporters who already felt the presence of the government in their communities,” he said.

Government Efforts

Aside from the military efforts and its quick impact programs, Col. Maquiling attributed the province’s relative peace to the local government’s efforts centered on peace and development, particularly in former guerrilla bases in the hinterlands.

Among these programs is the provincial government’s serbisyo caravan, popularly known as Nagkakakisang Lingkod-Bayan ng Davao Oriental Barangay Outreach Caravan (NLD-BOC). Putting premium on social services, the program reaches out to the most hinterland sitios and barangays to deliver government services.

Moreover, with the support of various national funding agencies, the provincial government leads the construction of more roads, water systems, school buildings, and other vital infrastructure facilities in the communities. And with the downpour of funds from the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict), more critical infrastructure projects are now being implemented.

In 2021, Davao Oriental received an allocation of P640 million from the NTF-ELCAC, of which P20 million was earmarked for each of the 32 barangays that were already cleared from the insurgency.

“With the flooding of projects, these communities could no longer find a reason to complain because the government is already there delivering projects and services even to the most far-flung sitios and barangays,” Governor Dayanghirang said.

Sustainability

While communities are already experiencing many developments, sustainability is another area of focus for the provincial government.

“Insurgency is not just about the armed group; it also has a civilian component which we address through dialogues and community healing,” said Provincial Task Force-ELCAC Vice-Chairman Ednar Dayanghirang.

Through community dialogues, people appreciate the purpose of the government while enabling them to communicate their needs to the government.

Community healing in former guerilla bases has proven effective in sustaining peace in the communities. Since its conceptualization, many communities have become good examples of how healing and reconciliation forge peace and establish trust and confidence with the government. Through the program, former mass supporters in these communities are becoming agents of change and more open to opportunities offered by the government.

To further ensure that these gains are sustained, the police’s Revitalized Police sa Barangay (RPSB) immerses in these communities, making the government’s presence constantly felt while guarding these communities against the resurgence of the Communist influences.

Amidst all these feats, Governor Nelson Dayanghirang lauded the efforts of the army, the police, and all agencies working together to achieve the elusive peace.

“Peace and development are our twin goals. We cannot have one without the other. And so, I ask everyone to unite and help each other. We do these for the benefit of everyone. We do these for the benefit of our beloved province,” said Gov. Dayanghirang. (PR)