Army official in NorthCot calls for localized talks with NPAs

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 22 Aug) – An Army commander here has called on local leaders of the communist guerilla movement in North Cotabato to come to the table for peace negotiations.

Col. Gabriel Viray, commander of the 901st Infantry Brigade. Photo from the 901IB Facebook page

Col. Gabriel Viray III, commander of the 901st Infantry Brigade, said it is only through dialogues that local issues and concerns are given solutions.

He said the rebels’ aim to establish their own government in the country is already a “thing of the past.”

“We no longer consider Jose Maria Sison their leader because he doesn’t live here. He is in another country, far, far from his men. So why negotiate with him?” the colonel asked.

The 901IB of the 10th Infantry Division is based in Magpet, a hinterland municipality in North Cotabato, which is considered one of the NPA’s strongholds in Mindanao.

For his part, Viray has expressed optimism after Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco issued early August Executive Order Number 18 to support President Duterte’s Executive Order 70 that called for localized peace talks in areas where the communist guerilla movement is deemed strong.

A week ago, Catamco led a delegation to Davao Oriental for benchmarking on how EO 70 was implemented in their area of responsibility.

Viray said he joined the governor in the benchmarking to also learn from other people’s “best practices” or experiences.

“I consider localized talks very helpful. Here, we will be able to iron out things, especially issues that concern our constituents,” he stressed.

He explained that those rebels who decide to yield to government will be provided with financial and livelihood assistance under President Duterte’s Enhanced Comprehensive Livelihood Integration Program.

“The funds are ready. All they have to do is surrender themselves, including their firearms,” Viray said.

Catamco’s EO has not yet received any reaction from Fronts 51 and 52 of the NPA’s Far South Mindanao Region. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)