36IB: breaking the walls of impossibilities in SurSur

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TAGO, Surigao del Sur, July 21 – The Army’s 36th Infantry (Valor) Battalion (36IB), 4ID, PA as peace advocates break the walls of impossibilities in Sur Sur under the leadership of LTC Xerxes A Trinidad INF (GSC) PA situated at Sitio Upper Mambago, Brgy Dayo-an, Tago, SDS.

The area of operation of 36IB in Surigao del Sur for the past decades has been widely known as lairs of the Communist NPA Terrorist since the 1980s. Decades of waging fears and threats not only to the community but also to the businesses and livelihood of the residents.

The NPAs has already formed a shadow government in the geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs) wherein basic services of the government were denied. Through the deployment of Community Support Programs, various CMO activities, and the relentless military operations to thwart the armed groups threatening the community, the 36IB together with the collaborative efforts of the different government agencies was able to slowly realize the delivery of basic services to the locals.

Notably, the national highway of Surigao del Sur particularly in the area of 36IB was cleared of CNT atrocities for the entire year of 2018 up to this date as compared to the previous years where tourism and economic activities were hampered by the frequent ambuscades, burning of private trucks and equipment, attacks on businesses, and the flagging down of travelers along the national highways.

With the sincere gesture of the government to help uplift the lives of the locals, many have withdrawn their support from the local communist movement and voluntarily surrendered to the Army. From the year 2018 to this date, a total number of fifty nine (59) CNT regular members and MBs who surrendered to the unit have received financial assistance, livelihood, TESDA trainings, firearm remunerations, access to government services, medical assistance, psychological assistance, legal assistance and a lot more. Another one hundred seventy nine (179) of them are still on process to be validated and enrolled to the E-CLIP to receive the same assistance from the government.

As more and more communities became aware of the deceptions made by the CPP-NPA-NDF, shifting of mass support to the government was felt. Last march of this year, Brgy Mampi of Lanuza, SDS has declared the CPP-NPA-NDF and its allied organization as persona non grata. Other inner barangays of the province directly affected by the CNT influence followed through to include the areas of ancestral domains of the IP communities. As of this date, a total of 12 barangays, 1 municipality, 2 CADTs, and the province of Surigao del Sur have declared them persona non grata with other areas soon to follow.

Through the overwhelming support of the people, many attempted attacks of the CTGs against the government forces has been foiled due to the tipping off of the local populace who is already fed-up with the terrorists decades-long banditry.

It can be recalled that a supply cache was seized by the 36IB troopers at Sitio Himat-e, Brgy Cayale, Tago, Surigao del Sur last 02 January 2019 which were left for safekeeping in their trusted contact/supporter in the barangays purposely to ease some loads carried by CNTs when conducting raids/harassments or to avoid pursuing army troops. Another supply cache was captured in a cave through the revelation of a concerned resident of Purok Salikot, Sitio Bato, Brgy Bitaugan, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur last 17 April 2019 which resulted to the capture of dozens of medical supplies and other war materials.

Another incident of civilians giving timely information was the successful combat operation against CNTs at Brgy Cancavan, Carmen, Surigao del Sur last May 2019 which resulted to the death of four (4) CPP-NPA terrorist and capture of six (6) high powered firearms, one (1) low powered firearm and other documents with high intelligence value. The Local Government Unit of Carmen lauded the Army’s 36th Infantry (Valor) Battalion for the successful operation of anti-insurgency campaign against the Communist NPA Terrorist thru passing of a resolution and awarding of certificate of commendation.

The military alone was never a solution to end insurgency. Hence, collaboration amongst the different government agencies to include the private sector and the community itself must be realized applying the “whole-of-nation” approach. In line with the operationalization of PRRD’s Executive Order No. 70, the Army’s 36IB participated in the launching of skills, livelihood and enterprise development programs for the locals and former rebels of Sitio Ibuan, Brgy Mampi, Lanuza, Surigao del Sur last 18 July 2019 spearheaded by the Poverty Reduction, Livelihood and Employment Cluster (PRLEC), Surigao del Sur with TESDA as its lead agency. It aims for the adoption of a peace framework to address the root causes of the insurgency, internal disturbances and tensions and other armed conflict and threats. It also aims to prioritize and harmonize the delivery of basic services and social development package of the government by facilitating societal inclusivity and ensuring active participation of all sectors of the society in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda.

In line with AFP’s mandate based on the Executive Order No. 23 making the anti-illegal logging operation as a military operation, the 36IB have enhanced its campaign against illegal logging in partnership with the PNP and DENR in support to the government’s program in the preservation and protection of the environment.

As of this date since January 2018, troops of the 36IB have conducted sixteen (16) successful anti-illegal logging operations in the province of Surigao del Sur that resulted to the confiscation of a total 66, 220.48 board feet illegal logs with an estimated market value worth P1, 647,054.80.

In his statement, Ltc Xerxes Trinidad PA, Commanding Officer of 36IB, “Now is the time to act and support our government in its peace initiatives towards our common goal of resolving the decades-long insurgency. Let us not be hindered by our individual differences and should work together as one. We are Filipinos known to the world as peace-loving people and resilient to all natural or man-made calamities.”

“Nothing is impossible if everyone commits to their mandates and obligations. Your soldiers will remain true to its mandate to serve the people and secure the land. We will do everything in our capabilities, no matter what the cost, just to ensure the safety of our people and the protection of our democracy towards a progressive country,” Army official added.

“We are calling to the remaining CNTs to surrender now and avail the E-CLIP. Let us make Surigao del Sur a peaceful place that could foster the foundation of an economic growth for a better Philippines,” Ltc Trinidad ended.