CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City – In recognition of the role of local governments in internal security, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) turned over to the Provincial Government of Pampanga the lead role in fighting insurgency after decades of a successful campaign of the military against the New People’s Army.
In a ceremony held today, January 15 in Bacolor Pampanga, the AFP led by its Chief of Staff General Emmanuel T Bautista signed a memorandum of agreement declaring the province as “peaceful and ready for further development.”
“We showed here in Pampanga one of our victories against the 45 years of insurgency in the country. We have had the insurgency problem for so long, and so many died and suffered, and many families were broken because of that. Now it is time to end the culture of violence. It is time for us to unite and abandon the armed struggle and time to live in peace and prosperity,” Gen Bautista said.
Gen Bautista was joined by LtGen Gregorio Pio P Catapang, Commander of Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM); MGen Hernando DCA Iriberri, Commander of 7th Infantry Division; and BGen Henry G Sabarre, 703rd Infantry Brigade; Pampanga governor Lilia G Pineda; and other local government and police officials.
With the MOA, the Philippine National Police will now take the lead role in fighting insurgents with the support of a military that will remain primarily for stakeholder engagement programs.
The MOA is also a formal demonstration of different LGUs and other Government agencies to reinvigorate their role in peace and development in their community. This is also a way to accept and assert the local government’s lead role in orchestrating the efforts of all agencies and stakeholders in the delivery of services designed to address the primary socio-economic issues.
Pampanga is the last province out of the 22 provinces in NOLCOM area to be declared as peaceful with the constant decline of NPA members and their mass base support.
A total of 21 provinces were declared peaceful in the area from 2009 to 2013 with La union and Nueva Viscaya in 2009; Apayao, Aurora, Quirino, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Kalinga in 2010; Ilocos Norte and Benguet in 2011; Zambales, Abra and Bataan in 2012; Batanes, Ilocos Sur, Isabela, Cagayan, Ifugao, Bulacan and Mt. Province in 2013. At present a total of 43 out of 75 provinces nationwide were already normalized.
“Pampanga was the last in the 22 provinces under the area of Northern Luzon Command to be normalized. Thus, the entire NOLCOM is now ready for further development,” Lt. Gen Catapang said.
Earlier this month, NOLCOM troops began workshops and contingency planning with the MMDA, NDRRMC, DSWD, PNP and other stakeholders related to Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response. Emergency operations center was established in NOLCOM, transportation and safety of evacuation centers were also being continually discussed and identified. In addition, all military camps under the area command have developed evacuation site inside their premises to accommodate people when disaster strikes.
“The declaration of these provinces as peaceful and ready for further development is a manifestation of the continued support of stakeholders and our people in winning the peace” Lt. Gen Catapang concluded.