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Army to hunt down remaining rebels in Albay, Catanduanes

LEGAZPI CITY—The Philippine Army's higher command has tasked Col. Claudio Yucot, the new commanding officer of the 901st Infantry Brigade, to go after some 11 members of the Bicol Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines(CPP) and 39 New People’s Army rebels in Albay and Catanduanes to support the two provinces' tourism industry and ensure peaceful local elections next year.

Maj. Gen. Yerson Depayso (Photo: 9ID)
This is the marching order of 9th Infantry Division commanding general Yerson Depayso during the recent turnover of command at the 901IB in Barangay Villahermosa in Daraga, Albay.

Yucot took over the command of the brigade from Col. Raul Farnacio, who was assigned at Fort Bonifacio after leading the brigade for two years and six months.

Albay was formally declared as a manageable conflict area (MCA) last April 23 this year by the 9th ID, while Catanduanes, in December 2014.

A province is said to be an MCA when any possible atrocities can be immediately contained or prevented from escalating to the point of causing major disturbances to peace and social development.

But there are still eight CPP cadres and 29 NPA rebels in Albay as well as another three CPP cadres and 10 NPA rebels in Catanduanes, based on the second quarter intelligence assessment this year.

Depayso thanked Farnacio and the men of the 901IB for their contribution in making the 9ID as one of the three best units in the Philippine Army.

There are only three best units in the Philippine Army which include the 9ID, the 3rd Division and the Signal Group.

He also received the brigade’s accomplishment report which features its various support for Team Albay.

The Army commanding general said he wants a further reduction in the firearms and enemy strength of the NPA operating in Albay and Catanduanes through the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan.

He said the Army’s core competence is to eliminate communist insurgency and to achieve this, it is necessary to eliminate the armed insurgents which hinder other government agencies to deliver their services in far-flung areas.

“Not known to every Bicolano, who sleeps well at night, is the stress being experienced by every soldier assigned here in Bicol. While you are sleeping well at night, our troops are there in the mountains patrolling and seeing to it that no armed groups are roaming around and that goes true with the commander who has to pray hard that nothing bad happens to his men,” he said.

Depayso said there was a lot of improvement over the years in achieving peace and order in Bicol.

He recalled that on May 11, 1982, he was part of a battalion conducing an operation in Labo, Camarines Norte and Lup and Ragay, Camarines Sur.

“It was the start of the communist insurgency in Bicol. The fighting occurred even along the highway after our troops were ambushed in Basud while the Philippine Constabulary had a firefight at the Bitukang Manok area and in Albay. The son of General Brawner was killed after his vehicle hit a landmine.That was how fighting between government forces and NPA rebels in Bicol started,” he said.

But over the years, with the contributions by all -- including the Philippine Army and other units of the Armed Forces as well as civil agencies, the Philippine Constabulary before and now the PNP-- we have achieved a huge improvement in the overall peace and order situation.

He said today, there are no ambuscades along the national highway and travel is now safe.

“We have driven them (the rebels) to the countryside and that is what we are continuing to address now,” he said.

The tourism industry in Catanduanes has benefited from Albay Gov.Joey Salceda's aggressive tourism promotion of Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon(Almasor) growth corridor. (by Allan Tan, PNA)

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