PILI, Camarines Sur – With the lifting of the holiday ceasefire with the communist rebels a day ago (Jan 4), Army soldiers in the Bicol Region are now preparing themselves for their various deployments.
Due to the recent flooding and landslides, the soldiers are now focusing their efforts in helping the people in various communities especially in Albay and Sorsogon.
Soldiers are among the heavily depended personnel in implementing the ‘preventive evacuation’ of people during natural calamities.
About two weeks ago, hundreds of Army soldiers and twenty military transport trucks were deployed to haul flood and landslide victims towards safer areas around Albay.
Soldiers were credited for the reduction of casualties during the said calamity which struck during the Christmas season. Local authorities reported three dead out of thousands of people who were displaced by heavy flooding.
Alerted by the weather bureau’s forecasts about possible rains in the coming days, Major General Ruperto Pabustan, the Commander of the 9th Infantry Division, directed his subordinate commanders to prepare their transport assets and personnel for disaster risk reduction (DRR) missions.
"I have ordered my unit leaders to coordinate with the local government in their respective area of responsibility in determining the areas vulnerable to disaster. The military is very much willing to be an ally with all the stakeholders in the community as regards to these DRR efforts,” said Pabustan.
The context of this alliance was based from the Hygo Framework for Action, requiring the active participation and involvement of local government sectors at different levels.
“We are not only confronting the threats against our national security, but also the emerging threats from natural disasters such as typhoons, volcanic eruptions and flooding which are all natural occurrences here in the region,” added Pabustan.
Seeing the waning influence of the communist rebels in the hinterlands, the soldiers are deployed primarily for the various pro-poor development projects and programs of the government.
The soldiers have also maintained presence in some areas where development projects are implemented by the government. Included in these projects are the Solong Hydroelectric plant in Catanduanes and the road pavement leading to the tourist spots in Caramoan peninsula.
The demand for ‘revolutionary tax’ and the terroristic actions by the CPP-NPA had stalled some of these ‘flagship projects’ midyear in 2010. The rebels torched down heavy-construction equipment owned by private contractors who refused to pay extortion money to them, in Camarines Sur and in the island province of Catanduanes.
Colonel Leoncio Cirunay, Operations Officer of the 9th Infantry Division said that combat operations are not the top priority in accordance to the new AFP campaign plan in defeating the communist insurgency.
“We have convinced the people that this fight against the communist rebels is not only ours (soldiers). For this reason, they have secretly eased our problem by providing us with vital information about the terrorist rebels through text messages,” declared Cirunay.
Cirunay likewise said that human rights protection and the respect for the provisions of the International Humanitarian Law are given emphasis by the operating troops. “Relevant topics which tackle these issues (human rights and IHL) are included in our various sustainment training programs,” added Cirunay.
In Calendar Year 2010, soldiers scored against the rebels through their so-called ‘precision strikes’ deep inside rebel-influenced areas resulting to successful encounters and the neutralization of the rebel’s top leaders.
“Here in Bicol, the communist rebels can run but they have nowhere to hide. While busying ourselves with our ‘pro-poor projects’, we can easily respond to any call from our civilian friends who are always on the lookout for the presence of the communist rebels who come to terrorize the local villagers,” added Cirunay.