Ilocos Region soon to be declared insurgency-free

By Hilda Austria / Philippine News Agency

DISMANTLED. New People's Army (NPA) terrorist camp in Barangay Lawang Langka in Mangatarem town in Pangasinan seized by the Army on Nov. 24, 2020. There were no more sightings of the communist-terrorist group in the region this year according to the army. (PNA File Photo courtesy of AFP)

MALASIQUI, Pangasinan – The Armed Forces of the Philippine’s 702nd Infantry Brigade said it is expecting the declaration of Ilocos Region as insurgency-free by the end of the year following the dismantling of the Komiteng Larangan Guerilla-South Ilocos Sur (KLG-SIS) and decimation of the New People’s Army’s (NPA) armed group in the region.

“What is left of the communist-terrorist group in the region were the organized underground movements and we are focusing our efforts on redirecting, reorienting, and de-radicalizing the mindset of these groups,” Brig. Gen. Krishnamurti Mortela, Commander of the 702nd Infantry Brigade, said in an interview on Friday.

He said the army, other national government agencies, and local government units (LGUs) are now focusing on sustaining peace and development in the region as there were no more sightings of NPA personalities since the start of this year.

“Records show that since the start of 2021, there are no more sightings and presence of armed NPAs in Ilocos Region, while in the remaining parts of the brigade’s area of responsibility activities are only confined in the boundaries of Abra and Mt. Province,” he added.

From January 2021 to the present, the Department of Labor and Employment, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Agriculture have committed around PHP10.4 million worth of livelihood projects and training for the former rebels and redirected people’s organizations in Ilocos Sur and Abra.

“With (a) few more months before the end of 2021, more livelihood projects are expected to be poured into the last remaining towns where NPA influence in the brigade’s area of responsibility is still present. With effective coordination done by the Brigade and its line unit, LGUs, and non-government associations (NGAs) are currently pouring their resources to create livelihood and implement projects designed to address the issues being used by NPA to recruit people in their influenced barangays,” Mortela said.

He said the last frontiers where NPA influence exists are in the towns of Malibcong, Lacub, Tineg, and Tubo in Abra; the town of Quirino in Ilocos Sur, and the towns of Besao and Tadian of Mt. Province.

Mortela credited the successes of the unit to the help of LGUs, NGAs, and the effective leadership of the former Commander of the unit, Brig. Gen. Audrey Pasia, as it was during his tenure when most of these accomplishments were achieved.

The non-stop combat operations led to the recovery of 48 high-powered firearms, recovery of five NPA bodies, surrender of seven regular NPA members, and 28 Milisyang Bayan (armed personalities under NPAs in the barangays), and the withdrawal of support of 452 underground mass organization (UGMO) members from the communist-terrorist group, he said.

“Apart from those, the dismantling of KLG-SIS also resulted in the successful exposure and withdrawal of support of the ranking leaders of the NPA operating in White Areas,” he said.

From January 2016 to July 15 this year, there were a total of 74 NPA members and 94 Milisyang Bayan members who surrendered.

They received immediate cash assistance with a total of PHP1.7 million, livelihood assistance worth PHP4.5 million, and firearms remuneration worth PHP1.2 million. (PNA)

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