By Mar S. Arguelles
NAGA CITY --- Army Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Quidilla, Southern Luzon commanding general, on Friday last week urged national as well as local government officials and policy makers to look into the needs of impoverished people living in insurgency-prone areas across the country.
Quidilla said “communism is alive” and furthered that the communist insurgency would continue if national and local government authorities would fail to formulate policies and deliver the needed services to various “conflict-prone areas.”
He said, “I call on national and local government policy makers that if we are really serious in helping to end the communist insurgency in the countryside, they must consider the existing conflict-prone places in formulating their plans and delivering their services and activities.”
At the start of the two-day summit here among broadcasters in South on Thursday, Quidilla said conflict-prone areas called Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDAs) by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), are places where insurgency thrives because of poverty, ignorance and lack of government services and other socioeconomic issues are being exploited by the communist insurgents to agitate the villagers especially those living in far-flung areas.
The military official, who announced his retirement this month, said, “I shall soon leave the service, what I would like to point out is that these conflict prone areas in the Southern Luzon areas were the same places that we know when I was still a lieutenant.”
GIDAs or conflict-prone areas under SolCom that still need government attention are: Quezon province -- Gumaca, Lopez, Gen. Luna and Catanauan and Tagkawayan; Batangas -- Nasugbo, Lian, Calaca, Lemery, Taysan, San Juan, Gen. Nakar and Majayjay; Rizal -- Paluan, Abra de Ilog, Bongabong, Rizal, San Jose and Mansalay;
Bicol -- Lagonoy, Garchitorina, Pasacao, Libmanan, Lupi in Camarines Sur; Gigmoto, Baras, San Andres in Catanduanes; Guinobatan, Jovellar, Pioduran, Libon, Oas, Daraga; Camarines Norte: Labo; Sorsogon: Barcelona, Gubat, Irosin, Juban and Magallanes; Masbate San Jacinto, Monreal, Mobo, Placer, Esperanza.
Quidilla, while presenting the grim situation on the war against insurgency, also laid down the Solcom achievements during his one-year term of office including: reducing the NPA strength by 106 rebels, of whom 30 were killed during encounters with military troops; 22 suspected NPA rebels captured and 54 alleged NPA rebels surrendered; Dismantling of NPA camps in 58 villages in Southern Luzon area; and recovery of 54 high powered firearms.
He noted that following intense combat operation, the AFP declared the provinces of Quezon and Oriental Mindoro as conflict manageable areas and are ready for further socio-economic development.
Quidilla, however, said that during various engagements with the communist rebels, the command lost 10 soldiers, 37 personnel were wounded in action, and three high powered firearms were lost.
The Solcom chief said “in spite of our operational success, the enemy (NPAs) are still there, communism is still alive.”
“We can say that the actual damage of this enemy action is minimal but the impact of this seen in a bigger perspective, is profound,” he said.