ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 14 May) — Only two guerrilla fronts of the New People’s Army (NPA) have reportedly remained in the Zamboanga Peninsula, and an Army official in the region said they will be gone by the end of this year.
In a phone interview Thursday, BGen Leonel Nicolas, commander of the 102nd Infantry Brigade said his unit is now focusing on Front BBC and Front Sendong, both under the Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee (WMRPC) of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA.
BBC (for Big Beautiful Country) refers to Mt. Malindang, a lush mountain straddling Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental, and where the National Democratic Front-Mindanao held its maiden press conference sometime in 1985.
Front Sendong also covers Zamboanga del Norte.
“The timeline set by the President [to dismantle the two fronts] is before the end of his term. However, we have a self-imposed timeline that we will be able to accomplish this by the end of 2021,” he said.
The brigade claimed to have dismantled five guerrilla fronts, two regional operational command units, and the main regional guerrilla unit, aside from one regional urban committee, all under the WMRPC.
“As of the end of 2020, we were able to clear all Communist Terrorist Group-affected barangays in Zamboanga Sibugay, which is one of the criteria in declaring a province as Insurgency-free,” Nicolas said.
By the end of April 2021, Zamboanga del Sur was also declared insurgency-free.
“What’s left for the Brigade, with the support of the Local Task Force to ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict) in ZamPen and MisOcc, is addressing these two remaining armed groups of WMRPC,” Nicolas stated.
As of this day, Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental are the two provinces in the Zamboanga Peninsula that still have communist insurgents.
“The chance for the declaration of Zamboanga del Norte as insurgency-free is very high. But we are not relying on chances, we make it is our mission and our objective that through the government’s ‘whole of nation’ approach, we will make not only Zambo Norte but as well as MisOcc, insurgency-free,” Nicolas said.
In an interview last week, Zamboanga Sibugay Gov. Wilter Y. Palma said, “We’ve been here for 53 years and it has been long enough. After this point in time what have they (rebels) achieved? Nothing. Just disorder.”
“Many have died, many have been displaced and development cannot be implemented or proceed because there is a problem in peace and order. Now it’s time for us to give peace a chance and development will follow. If there is no peace, development could not happen next,” Palma added. (Frencie L. Carreon/MindaNews)