The 79th Infantry “Masaligan” Battalion of the Philippine Army returned to Negros Oriental yesterday to resume its duties to keep the peace, despite its being “insurgency-free” now.
The more than 500 “Masaligan” battalion, led by Lt. Col. Harold Anthony Pascua, arrived in Dumaguete after more than three months of training at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
The 79th IB was temporarily replaced by the 20th IB, headed by Lt. Col. Miguel Ceballos, who had also previously completed a similar course.
Governor Roel Degamo was guest speaker at the welcome/send-off ceremony for the 79th IB and the 20th IB, respectively, and he congratulated them for hurdling the rigorous training.
“I know that your training aims to strengthen and improve the battalion’s operational capability so you can effectively perform your duties, especially in internal peace and security operations,” he said.
Negros Oriental was declared conflict manageable and development ready by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in May.
Degamo said he hopes that programs and projects geared towards a more peaceful resolution of conflicts in the hinterlands, like Bantay Bayanihan and Lakbay Aral for children of Negrenses living in far-flung areas, will continue and expand to reach more areas in the province to attain the total peace and development that we have so long hoped for.
Col. Allan Martin, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade, mother unit of the Army battalions in the province, said that districts two and three no longer have armed insurgents, based on the latest assessment.
The 79th IB covers the two districts and their role is to ensure that members of the New People’s Army in these areas will not return, he added.
Meanwhile, Martin assured the departments of Public Works and Highways, Labor and Employment, and Agrarian Reform that they can now carry out their tasks and functions in the former insurgency-affected areas “without fear”.
Nothing has been changed, except for the swapping of the two units, and the 79th IB will immediately be deployed to its headquarters in Siaton town, and their other previous assignments, he added.*JFP