CATBALOGAN CITY- After more than four decades of battling with the outlawed and armed the New People’s Army, this impoverished province was declared as ‘manageable conflict and development ready area,” a step of making it an “insurgency free” province.
Governor Sharee Ann Tan made the declaration on Monday as Samar was celebrating its 174th founding anniversary in a program at the grounds of the provincial capital located in Catbalogan City.
The declaration of Samar as manageable conflict and development ready area was made official by virtue of Ordinance Number 14-012-14 approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on August 7.
The declaration would be further formalized with an agreement to be signed by Gov. Tan and Major General Jet Velarmino, commanding general of the 8th Infantry Division, based this city, which has yet to be scheduled.
The declaration of Samar, once the bastion of insurgency in Eastern Visayas in the 1980s, would be a big boost for them to invite not only investors but even tourists, said Governor Tan.
“WE can now say to the country and even to the whole world that we are now ready for development. That with the declaration, we can now (openly) invite them to come to (our province),”Tan said in an interview.
She, however, said that the declaration, which is the next step before the military declares an area as insurgency-free, would not mean that soldiers would now leave the province composed of two cities and 24 towns.
“They will not leave us; that’s the biggest point that we have stressed,” the governor said.
The governor also assured that as part of her commitment, she would ensure that rebels and their supporters who would decide to their movement could be given the needed assistance like livelihood.
She also said that she also prioritized in constructing roads in remote areas, where presence of the insurgency is felt, as part of the solution to end the problem in her province.
Based on the resolution declaring Samar as manageable and development ready area, it said that “the insurgent group ceased to function as an organized movement in the province.”
“The threat to stability, peace and order and development in the province was significantly reduced and relegated as mere criminal and law enforcement matters,” part of the resolution, signed by board members save for Vice Governor Stephen James Tan and two board members who were absent during the passage and approval of said ordinance.
Major Gen. Velarmino said the declaration of Samar would now mean that the activities of the NPA members have been neutralized to the extent that they could no longer launch any major attack.
“Their capability to lunch major attack was now downgraded. They could no longer confront us head on except to use their old tactic of launching ambuscades,” Velarmino said.
He said that it is the local government units which have the hands of making such declaration which the Army supports and validates.
In Eastern Visayas, only the provinces of Biliran and Southern Leyte were already declared as insurgency free while Leyte was categorized as manageable and development ready.
Velarmino said that the remaining provinces of Eastern Samar and Northern Samar are soon to be declared as manageable and development ready provinces before 2016, the timetable set by the government to end the insurgency problem of the country.
Presence of the rebels in the region, still reeling on the devastation caused by supertyphoon Yolanda, was often cited as one of the big factors why its development is hinders.