PAGADIAN CITY — Zamboanga del Sur celebrated on Sunday, April 21, its third year of being declared as “insurgency-free,” which is a testament to the effectiveness of the whole-of-society effort to finally put an end to the communist rebellion in the province.

In his remarks during a gathering here to commemorate the occasion, Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito G Galvez, Jr. lauded the provincial government, security sector, civil society, religious community, academe and other peace partners for the major achievement.

“By working hand in hand, you have been able to neutralize the communist threat here in your area and make sure that it will not be able to regroup and carry out its recovery efforts,” Galvez said.

Celebrating another milestone of the Philippine Peace Process

The security took center stage as the national and provincial government honored the outstanding peacekeeping initiatives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) 102nd Infantry Brigade and 53rd Infantry Battalion, as well as the Philippine National Police – Provincial Regional Office Region 9.

“Ang inyo pong sakripisyo, maging ang pagbubuwis ng buhay ng ilan sa inyong mga kasamahan para sa kapayapaan ng lalawigan, ang naging pundasyon na tinatamasa nitong katiwasayan at kaunlaran,” said Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilbert Teodoro in his message read by DND Undersecretary Angelito De Leon.

“This is a history in the making. For the very first time, mayroon na po tayong na-dismantle na Regional Party committee ng CPP-NPA-NDF. And this is the Western Mindanao Party committee, a first in the country,” noted AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner.

Brawner said that he is happy to see that the 163 Former Rebels, now called Friends Rescued, who were attending the commemoration activity have been reunited with their families.

“This represents the core of our Filipino society, and I am happy to see na magkakasama na ang pamilya ng ating mga FRs,” he remarked.

A Whole-of-Nation approach

Zamboanga del Sur Governor Victor Yu underscored the invaluable role of national line agencies and the security sector in the effective implementation of Executive Order 70, which mandates the use of a whole-of-government, whole-of-nation approach in addressing the challenges of the decades-long communist insurgency.

The governor shared that the infrastructure development in Barangay Dagum, Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur has uplifted the socio-economic well being of residents and the community as a whole

“We encouraged the barangays to improve and increase their production (of agricultural products) to help in the development of their communities, our province and the entire nation,” Yu said.

He also shared that most communities in the province already have roads, water systems and vital infrastructure, pointing out that this is the result of the successful implementation of the EO 70.

Moving forward, the governor shared that the provincial government is allotting P40 million to improve his peoples’ access to much-needed communication services such as Wi-Fi connectivity.

“We know this is just the beginning of another chapter of this counter-insurgency…we will continue [this] partnership,” Gov. Yu assured said, as he committed that the provincial government will work closely with the OPAPRU) and other national government agencies to sustain peace and development efforts in Zamboanga del Sur.

Peace Center to rise in Zambo del Sur

Meanwhile, Galvez announced that the OPAPRU will be establishing a Peace Center in the province, similar to what it had set up in Cotabato City.

“Ito ay Isang mekanismo upang mas mapaigting natin ang pagpapatupa’d ng Transformation Program at iba pang mga inisyatibong pangkapayapaan dito sa probinsya,” he explained.

To jumpstart the construction of the Peace Center, Galvez. turned-over a Php 5 Million “trust fund” to the provincial government of Zamboanga del Sur, which was received by Gov. Yu. and Representatives Divina Yu and Jeyzel Yu

According to Galvez, the OPAPRU is also working closely with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the implementation of its Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) Program in the province that are now benefitting FRs.

“Hinihingi namin ang patuloy at buong-pusong suporta at partisipasyon ng mga mamamayan ng Zamboanga del Sur upang matagumpay nating maipatupad ang Transformation Program para sa ating mga FRs, kanilang pamilya at komunidad,” he said. ###