Soldiers belonging to the Marine Battalion Landing Team 4 visit residents of Barangay Abo-Abo, Sofronio Española in August and distributed leaflets as part of their Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) campaign

The New People’s Army (NPA) strength in Palawan is down to a 39-man armed insurgent force, a recent report disclosed by the Western Command (WESCOM) stated.

Briefing reporters early this week, WESCOM commander Vice Admiral Rene Medina said this represents a reduction of the NPA’s estimated force of 47 armed rebels in 2018.

He attributed the decline to the government’s “whole-of-nation” approach against insurgency.

“When it comes to manpower, it is in a declining stage and also the firepower. We believe that with the continuing efforts of Joint Task Force Peacock (JTFP), we will be able to sustain endeavors to end the local armed conflict,” Medina said.

The number of firearms the communist rebels possess also reportedly declined from 50 in 2017 to 43 in the first semester of the year.

Since the start of the year, he said the military has discovered and seized three rebel encampments in the province and assisted in the surrender of 12 communists to local peace engagements.

Medina said the battalions and the brigade of the Philippine Marines in Palawan will help through various community support programs.

Medina pointed out that ending the insurgency in Palawan does not require a strategy of attrition, stressing that a “conducive environment” for economic development will help address the problem.

“Hindi naman kailangan na ubusin sila If we don’t support the local government units that will be affected, then they will be relevant. Pero if we maintain a good environment that is conducive to economic peace and development para sa mga komunidad, para sa akin ay matatapos ang problema,” he said.

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Jayra Joyce Cañete Taboada handles the law and order and the science and education beats. She is also a licensed professional teacher.