AFP downgrades SouthCot’s security status


South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said the relatively normal security condition in the province was reportedly the main reason considered by the AFP when it ordered the pullout of the Army's 27th Infantry Battalion from Tupi town two weeks ago.

The 27IB, which transferred to Cotabato province, was replaced by a
company from the Army's Special Forces.

"It appears that we now have lesser problems here in terms of threats
from the NPA (New People's Army), MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front)
and other armed groups compared with our neighboring provinces," she

Before the 27IB was transferred late last month, she cited that
only one company of the battalion had been stationed at its base in

She said the battalion's other two other companies had long been
transferred to Sarangani province and Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat
to augment other security forces based there.

Fuentes said the downgrading of the province's security status
manifests that the local government has been successful in its efforts
to address the basic needs of residents situated in the areas
previously influenced by the rebels groups.

She cited the result of the changes introduced by the provincial
government in two barangays in Banga town and three others in Tupi,
which were previously considered as strong bases of NPA and MILF

After the neutralization by the 27IB of the base of the NPA's Front
73 along the Roxas Mountain Range three years ago, the provincial
government launched its own peace and development initiative dubbed as
"Sustaining Peace and Development Program" in partnership with various
national government agencies, including the AFP, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Agriculture.

Fuentes said the program aims to bring lasting peace to identified
communities through the implementation of confidence-building
projects, stimulation of economic activities, improvement of
government visibility and reduction of poverty incidence, especially
among the affected indigenous peoples.

Now known as the Project DAF or Development Alternative Framework, the
local government has continued its efforts to rebuild communities that
were previously influenced by rebel groups through a partnership with
the Act for Peace initiative of the United Nations Multi-Donor Program.

"Right now, our efforts are directed at sustaining these gains by
introducing viable economic alternatives for our residents in our
conflict-affected areas," she said.

Fuentes said the provincial government is also strengthening its
engagement with leaders of Moro communities in the province to
isolate them from the looming conflict in other parts of Mindanao.

"We're winning the battle here without firing a single shot. We hope
that this will continue until we can eventually erase the province's
tag as a conflict area here in Mindanao," she added. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)