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Armyand North Cotabato's conflict zone now ‘NPA-free’

 • 21:03 PM Thu Jul 30, 2015
Malu C. Manar

KIDAPAWAN CITY – The 39thInfantry Battalion of the Philippine Army has declared ‘free’ from the ‘influence’ of the communist guerillas the municipality of Tulunan, a second class town located on the southernmost part of North Cotabato. Captain Danny Tapang, spokesperson for the Army’s 39thIB, said he used as basis in their declaration results of the Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) activities that they conducted since last year. Tulunan has 29 barangays, six of which are categorized under the ‘influence’ of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA), according to Tapang.These include areas that were declared in 1990s as ‘peace zones’, he said. To date, Tapang said that the NPAs have vacated these areas. Kung dati, mataas ang insurgency level ng mga lugar na ito, sa ngayon, nawala ang affectation level nito,” he explained. To achieve this status, he said, they needed frequent engagement with the barangay officials and the communities. Napaliwanagan na ang mga tao… na dapat iwasan nila ang mga grupo’ng tulad ng mga NPA.Ang kagandahan nito, naniwala sila sa atin,” he added. As to how long the town of Tulunan could enjoy the status as being NPA-free depends on the people, according to Tapang. Depende ito sa mga tao sa lugar.Kung sakaling babalik ang NPA sa erya, tatanggapin pa rin ba nila?Magbibigay na naman ba sila ng suporta rito?‘Yan ang tanong,” he said. Once the area is declared ‘conflict-manageable’ and ‘ready for further development’, the Armed Forces start its withdrawal of troops and begin, in another ‘challenging’ town, their PDOP activities. In early ‘80s, the communist insurgency in Tulunan town has heightened when a leader ofIlaga, a para-military group, killed Italian missionary Tulio Favali. The NPAs that used to operate in Tulunan town were members of Front 72 NPA Operational Command in Far South Mindanao Region. In early ‘90s, peace advocates in Tulunan, many of them church workers, decided to establish ‘zones of peace’ to free the people from being caught in cross fires between the NPAs and government troops. In 2007, when the AFP launched PDOP, Tulunan was among its targets. After eight years, the town has finally become ‘NPA-free’, Tapang said. The Army captain said that under PDOP, they integrated a ‘non-combat’, ‘non-hostile’, and purely outreach and development activities in far-flung areas. As a result of PDOP, we have successfully delivered government services to the people and easily win their hearts and minds.And to show them that our government and their soldiers, as well, will always be there to serve them,” he said.

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