NPAs as spoilers of progress

During the daily fast-round-talks on ASEAN meetings in Manila, no less than President Rodrigo Duterte noted the viable advantages of the hosting of said international event in the country in the many spectrums-regional peace and stability, economic growth, investment, among others. The Bicol Region is also expectant to reap the numerous economic benefits of ASEAN. I am a Bicolana and one of the local organizers of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings in Legazpi City. Until now I am still saddened by the bad news that the conduct of ASEAN Meeting was cancelled for the second time in Albay attributed to the threats planted by the NPAs. From the reports we obtained from the security sector of the ASEAN meetings, the NPAs planned to conduct strings of attacks with the use Improvised Explosive Device (IEDS), which may put the lives of the delegates at risks. The first meeting which was cancelled and supposed to be attended by about 200 participants including foreign delegates was in August 21-26, 2017; and, the other one was slated on November 21-22, 2017 to be participated by about 90 delegates. Nestled in the unashamedly boastful island in Cagraray, Bacacay Albay, is the Misibis Bay Resort, the area of engagement for these two ASEAN meetings. It is the favorite locations for travel and relaxation of local and foreigners alike. In a headness statement, the ASEAN meetings if pushed through in Albay would bring bigger economic opportunities- in terms of tourism and investment. These will pave the way for the tourism promotion not only of Albay but also the Blcol Region. But what happened was the opposite. The cancellation brought hefty losses to Albay for the organizers and stakeholders who meticulously planned for the meetings- the venue, the hoteliers and restaurateurs (food and reservations), the medics/paramedics, security sector, the traffic sector, and, the many others involved and other expensed for the IDs, the t-shirts and other financial/logistical requirements. The conduct of ASEAN in the Region is not only one of those economically sabotaged by the NPAs. Based on the report also from the security sector presented in one of the preparatory meetings for the ASEAN, last September 28, 2017, five units of dump trucks, two mini trucks; one mini mixer; and one grader truck owned by E.M. Cuerpo, Inc. a contractor of the Bicol International Airport (BIA) were torched by the NPAs. These equipment are being used for the construction of the said airport. Damage was placed at P25M. For days, the construction of the said airport was delayed with the burning of equipment. This was not the first case of NPAs’ terroristic acts in the said airport. In 2012, about 12 heavy equipment owned by the Sunwest Construction Company (contractor), also used for the construction of the BIA was also burned by NPAs. Most of these equipment are trucks, payloaders and road rollers resulting in P76 million worth of damage. The rebels torched the equipment for the alleged non-payment of extortion demanded from said contractors. Located in a 400-hectafe land in Bgy Alobo, Daraga, which is 10-kilometer from Legazpi City, the BIA is a P3.440 billion project by the National Government. The airport is critical in achieving the 650,000 tourists target for Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate. It will bring improvement in the facilities and better utilization of available seating capacities to about 85 percent and can handle about 2,000 tons of cargo. Construction of airport started in 2010, but slippages were reported due to the NPAs’ intervention as evidenced by the torching of the equipment. These four cases: cancellation of ASEAN meetings and torching of equipment for the construction of Bicol International Airport which are only few of those reported. There could be more unaccounted for. President Duterte tagged the NPAs as terrorists which the latter opposed. Well if they are not, then they should prove their worth. They need to be peace advocates and not spoilers. I am hopeful that there will be more international events in the Bicol Region aside from ASEAN with the non-intervention of the NPAs. Name withheld upon request Cabangan, Legazpi City