TACLOBAN CITY – Improved access to far-flung villages in Borongan City, Eastern Samar is the key to wiping out the local communist terrorist group that has been threatening communities in the past five decades, Mayor Jose Ivan Dayan Agda said on Tuesday.
Speaking to members of the provincial task force to end the local communist armed conflict (ELCAC), Agda said terrorist activities of the New People’s Army (NPA) will continue for as long as some upland communities are hard to reach.
“People from remote barangays need us, people in the government. They need interventions, but all our planned interventions will be limited to none if we can hardly reach them, and if their needs remain unabated, resentment, division could prevail,” he said.
He cited the city’s Pinanag-an village with more than a thousand families.
This remotest village is about a three-hour motorboat ride from the city’s wharf passing through five villages. The long river is the only access to the village, about 23 kilometers away from the city.
It was in Pinanag-an village where six soldiers died and 20 other government troops were critically injured when NPA rebels detonated a landmine during an ambush on Nov. 11, 2019.
On Dec. 13, 2019, a junior police officer and two civilians were also killed while four other policemen and 11 civilians, including three minors, were injured during an explosion followed by a burst of gunfires along a section of the main highway in Borongan.
At least nine upland villages have been identified as NPA-influenced with Pinanag-an as the farthest.
The mayor said in a phone interview that about 7,000 residents dwell in these communities.
“Government has been in a constant battle with the NPA insurgents and hundreds of peace talks had been made while innocent and helpless civilians are sometimes involved. Apparently, some issues have yet to be addressed, particularly the problem of the inaccessibility to government service,” Agda told the Philippine News Agency.
As a counter-insurgency measure, the Borongan local government will soon launch “Dukwag Agrikultura” (improving agriculture), which was approved recently by the city council, with program components aimed to improve the economic standing of poor farmers.
However, he said many of the identified agricultural farms are located in insurgency-laden communities.
“With the construction of needed roads and bridges, perhaps, some peace and order issues can be addressed eventually,” he said.
Agda has also lined up several road opening projects to improve the living condition of villagers by providing better access to basic skills training and livelihood, medical, and other social services, including education.
For 2021, now awaiting budget appropriations are the road linking the villages of Canyupay-Hebacong-Benowang-Baras-Pinanag-an (phase 2); Surok-San Matero road (phase2); concreting of Cabalagnan-Canyupay (phase 2); road opening in Surok-San Mateo (phase 4); road widening of Amantacop road; road opening in Sta. Fe; road opening of Balacdas-San Pablo; road construction in Sabang South-Sitio Lipgutan, and road opening in San Gabriel to Kaputian Falls, a tourism area.
The mayor is eyeing to complete all these road projects between 2021 to 2024.
Borongan, the capital of Eastern Samar is located 190 kilometers northeast of this city, the regional capital, which has a population of nearly 70,000 in 61 villages.
The NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)