New People's Army
New People’s Army. File photo

BASEY, Samar, March 13 (PNA) — The Philippine Army’s 87th Infantry Battalion has intensified their presence in remote and rebel-infested Mabini village of this town in the bid to curb insurgency.

Recently, government troopers gathered nearly 1,000 participants from the community and local government for a peace forum to tackle key issues in the conflict-affected village.

Mabini has been plagued by encounters of military troops and armed rebels that have affected the security and well-being of the residents. In the past years, troopers have discovered camps of communist insurgents.

Since the latest fire fighting in the area, the 87th IB together with the local government pursued strategies of development and security to address the conflict, which combined the restoration of civilian justice.

The initiative featured a “responsive dialogue,” registering a call from the local community for a greater voice in the peace process, which local stakeholders, military participated-including residents of remote communities, that are especially affected by insurgency.

The dialogue allowed local participants to identify the four issues that most seriously weighed on their daily lives – personal and community security, access to justice, and education quality.

“Community members called for the pilot testing of safety areas, in which communities would assume responsibility for their own security as an alternative to formal military protection,” said 2nd Lt. Jezzel Anumbay, assistant civil military operations officer of the Army’s 87th IB.

“The perception caused by civilian casualties if ever, is one of the most complicated things we face in Samar,” she said.

“One split second tactical on-the-ground call has a strategic implications,” Anumbay added. “It has a long-lasting effects from whatever happens. That’s why it is a very, very difficult job.”

The 87th IB soldiers noted that rebels and some militia groups are flourishing in remote villages without a strong presence of military.

“Civilians or even village chiefs can’t repel because they don’t have guns, they don’t want to start a war, they don’t want their families killed,” Anumbay shared. “If there is no legitimate presence of soldiers in an area, the armed NPA’s can move in and do whatever they want.” (PNA)