AFP declares Romblon insurgency free

December 17, 2009 11:00 pm 

MANILA, Dec. 17 – The provincial government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Thursday declared the whole province of Romblon, including its group of islands, as “insurgency free.”

This was declared following the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by the Commander of the 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division, Major General Jorge V Segovia and the provincial government of Romblon,represented by its governor, the Honorable Natalio B Beltran III.

The MOA signing was attended by PNP MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan) director for Administration Police Chief Supt. Paul P. Mascarinas, Armed Forces of the Philippines’ highest regional ground commander Mgen Roland M. Detabali of the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM), AFP and PNP security forces, local populace and other stakeholders in the island.

Mrs. Ruby Martosa-Salac, 41, a catechist of Romblon’s oldest church and a native of this island said: “Being one of the natives here, I saw many factors that deeply affect our quest for dynamic eco – tourism industry. I foresee that our problem is lack of publicity. This was aggravated by the stigma of peace and order problem specifically on existence of communist rebels."

"I believe this made our islands secluded from local and foreign tourists. Maybe they are afraid to come here because of that stigma. However, as far as I am concerned, I haven’t encountered any NPA since I grew up here, only rumors of their presence. I think this declaration of the military that our place is peaceful and free from NPA will help a lot in our quest to bolster our eco – tourism industry. Our place is safe and is very peaceful," Salac said.

"The Local Terrorist Movement or the New People's Army failed to prosper in expanding their influence in this Island," said 2nd Infantry Division spokesman Lt. Celeste Frank Sayson.

"This was affected by the unique traits of its populace who were knit by kin and clan," said Sayson.

Salac also said: "Our place is not easily infiltrated by unknown personalities for we all knew each other."

Relatively, Romblon is just an extension area of the bulk of NPA in Mindoro Island. Then NPA’s Mindoro Island Party Committee (MIPC) attempted to expand its sphere of influence to Romblon Province by sending top cadres and few members to establish “base areas” and organize the masses in 1997.

This paved the way to the creation of their other groups in northern part of Tablas Island while others are on the southern part, in the succeeding years. They had reached an estimated strength of 33 NPA members, six of which were party members.

Their operational area was mainly confined to Tablas Island, Romblon province. Although Romblon is vital in the waging of uninterrupted and progressive revolutionary struggle in the mainland and Mindoro Island, it is considered as among the secondary areas of the revolutionary struggle in Southern Luzon.

This blunder was again aggravated when the Local Terrorist, NPA forces were pulled-out to augment and address the depleting number of personnel in Mindoro Island due to the government’s incessant Internal Security Operation (ISO) sometimes in 2002. This information was mentioned not only by captured or surrendered Communist Terrorist (CT) personalities but also stated in recovered documents.

On 2006, one of the captured top cadres of the NPA’s Island Committee Mindoro (ISLACOM), revealed and confirmed that they don’t have any troops in Romblon province because of the shortage of personnel in Mindoro. ISLACOM was not able to redeploy its cadres after the pull-out in Romblon province.

"The AFP through the 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division will maintain territorial forces and will not fully vacate this island. The PNP will take the lead on security operations while 2ID forces will take the supporting efforts," said Sayson.

"This undertaking is the second time to happen in the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines. The first ever declaration of an area to be NPA free was successfully conducted at Marinduque Island last July 31, 2009 also by the 2nd Infantry Division," added Sayson.

Sayson said Romblon Island’s turn over of ISO responsibility happens with the effective collaboration and strong political will of the LGU and local populace of Romblon Island to the 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division, Philippine Army’ ISO and anti-insurgency campaign.

"This milestone is expected to open new opportunities and influx of local and foreign tourists in this beautiful island – an island replete with pristine beaches and dive sites, and a place of cultural heritage where settles the Spanish period colonial church," said Sayson. (PNA) RMA/VR

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