BRGY. TILING, Cauayan - The Philippine Army in Western Visayas yesterday expressed its support to the move of Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, to recommend to Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. a local ceasefire with the New People’s Army in Negros.
Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said he has been pushing for localized ceasefires, because, “We feel that (peace) talks on the national level are very slow, as a lot of issues need to be addressed”.
Not a single violent activity by the New People’s Army has been monitored by the 302nd and 303rd Infantry Brigades in Negros island, since the yuletide truce started Dec. 16. It will end on Jan. 15 as agreed on by both the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front.
Since January last year, Mabanta said, the NPA in the region has not initiated major attacks against government forces and they are happy for it.
On the contrary, he said, they have recorded an influx of rebel surrenderees, including the surrender of 74 rebels in Negros island, that was the result of their Oplan Bayanihan campaign.
Mabanta also said they may declare southern Negros “insurgency-free” within a year or two, citing the absence of any major violent activity of the NPA in the area for almost two years now.
Lactao said the cessation of hostility with the NPA will further lower the level of violence in Negros Occidental, for development to seep in, especially in the countryside, where the delivery of basic social services is badly needed.
Mabanta yesterday installed Lt. Col. Enriqueto Deocadez Jr. as the new commanding officer of the 47th Infantry Battalion. The change of command ceremony was attended by local chief executives of southern Negros, among them, Rep. Mercedes Alvarez and her brother, Ilog Mayor John Paul Alvarez, Kabankalan Mayor Isidro Zayco, Sipalay Vice Mayor Gina Montilla-Lizares, Candoni Mayor Jechonias Manzano, Cauayan Mayor John Rey Tabujara and his father, Vice-Mayor Jerry Tabujara, and Hinobaan Mayor Teresa Bilbao.
Deocadez, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1993, replaced Lt. Col. Rodrigo Sosmena, who was conferred a Military Merit Medal, in recognition of exemplary services rendered to the Negrenses in two years and two months.
Sosmena thanked Rep. Alvarez and the six mayors of southern Negros, among others, for their support.*GPB