TACLOBAN CITY – The local government unit (LGU) of Kananga, Leyte, and the Philippine Army are strengthening their peace and development activities in all villages in response to attempts of the New People’s Army (NPA) to recover mass and guerrilla bases in the town.
Both groups have initiated dialogues with villagers under Operation Barangayan for Peace and Development after members of the communist terrorist group were recently sighted in some upland areas.
The undertaking eyes to cover all 23 villages in Kananga town until Dec. 23.
“We initiated this activity to bring the government closer to the people in the light of the current attempt of the NPA to recover its former mass and guerrilla bases in the town,” Kananga Mayor Matt Torres said in a statement on Monday.
The government kicked off the day-long activity on Dec. 3 in Cacao and Montealegre villages joined by 110 village officials, community workers, and community leaders spearheaded by village chiefs Ambrosio Sialongo (Cacao) and Jaime Pedoy (Montealegre).
The second round was held on Dec. 5 in Tugbong and Sto. Niño villages.
On Monday, officials held the gathering in Naghalin and Libongao villages. Leading the dialogue are members of the municipal task force on ending local communist armed conflict.
Among the topics discussed include local security threat situation, understanding correctly the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)– NPA strategy and tactics, and assistance to former rebels who return to the fold of the law.
Capt. Kaharudin Cadil, the spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade, said the series of dialogues with community leaders and workers intend to block efforts of the remnants of the NPA to find recruits in Kananga town.
“The local task force interacts with the people on the ground to learn, first hand, the issues, and concerns of the people with the aim of addressing those concerns. This will shield our communities from NPA deception. The NPA’s armed struggle will stop if they will not be able to find new recruits,” Cadil told the Philippine News Agency in a phone interview Monday.
On Nov. 30, at least 410 individuals from Matin-aw, Motorpool, and Karawayan sub-villages fled their homes for fear of being caught in a crossfire as government troopers engaged rebels in a firefight.
They returned home the next day after spending the night in school buildings in Rizal village.
The clash happened two days after a young female fighter of the NPA was killed in an encounter with government troops in the outskirts of Kananga.
The town police identified the fatality as Rochelle Mae Bacalso, alias Ruth, 21, a newly recruited member of the remnants of Sub-Regional Committee Levox, Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee of the CPP. She was reportedly a resident of the town’s Libongao village.
Kananga is a first-class municipality in Leyte province and a home to about 57,000 people. The town is located 78 kilometers northwest of Tacloban, the regional capital. (PNA)