By Ali G. Macabalang
Synergized efforts by civil government and security sectors are steadily holding footholds in the countryside, with authorities announcing success in sifting at least 13 villages in North Cotabato from influence by the outlawed New People’s Army (NPA).
Reports attributed to North Cotabato Governor Nancy Alaan Catamco disclosed Thursday that Makilala and Tulunan, both towns known for past NPA insurgents’ combat and recruitment activities, have gradually been cleared of grip by terror-bound communist rebels.
The reports named the 13 villages purportedly freed from NPA influence as Bituan, Banayal, Nabundasan, Tuburan, Magbok and Daig in Tulunan, and Santa Felomina, Santo Niño, Luayon, Malasila, Cabilao, Malungon and Malabuan in Makilala.
Residents in the 13 villages are no longer fearful of becoming victims in crossfire during armed encounters between government security forces and NPA insurgents and have now focused on more productive socio-economic ventures without undue interruption, the Catamco-corroborated reports said.
They attributed the initial feat to the implementation in the ground of the national government’s End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) campaign requiring intensified police and military operations only in combat operations but also in their persuaded conduct of countryside indignation rallies against NPA/CPP activities.
In support of the ELAC campaign, local and national agencies have likewise increased the number of life-enhancing projects in the countryside, including ostensibly the coordinated undertakings of the provincial government and the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) now chaired by Sec. Manny Piñol, a former North Cotabato governor.
Field workers of the government’s Special Area for Agriculture Development (SAAD), introduced nationwide by Sec. Pinol during his stint in North Cotabato and later in the Department of Agriculture (DA), have been saturating villages with various small-scale projects ranging from subsidies farming to livestock production, Tulunan officials said.
ELAC campaign strides have also been bolstered by increased presence of government officials in villages, said a report from the provincial government coupled with photos showing Gov. Catamco immersing with ordinary village folks.
In the report, Gov. Catamco has acknowledged the positive impacts on villages by the cohesive efforts of the police and military establishments, particularly at the provincial and regional levels and the Army’s 10th Infantry Division.
“We appreciate the police and military contributions, so with the civilian sectors,” Catamco was quoted as saying.
In recent weeks, cops led by provincial police director Col. Henry Villar and soldiers from battalion under the 10ID joined villagers in conducting separate indignation rallies, during which NPA activities were denounced and their effigies burned. (Ali G. Macabalang)