The Honorable Voltaire Gazmin,secretary of the Department of National Defense; Officers and staff of the  Armed Forces of the Philippines led by General Emmanuel Bautista, AFP Chief of Staff; Philippine National Police Chief General Alan Purisima; Regional Peace and Order Chair and Bohol Governor Edgar Chato; Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan led by Vice Governor  Edward Mark L. Macias; Our city and municipal Mayors led by Mayor Bentham de la Cruz, president of the Mayors’ League of the Philippines – Negros Oriental Chapter; My Colleagues in the government service; Mga higala,  maayong buntag . . .

We come together today to write another chapter in the province’s history as we formally set our hand on the Joint  Declaration of Negros Oriental as a  “Conflict-Manageable and Development-Ready Province.”  The people of Negros Oriental  are  truly humbled and greatly honored with this achievement because it means that hard work and dedication pay off and if we work together as one, we can beat the odds.  We can make a difference!

This Joint Declaration symbolizes the steadfastness and determination   of our Armed Forces to maim, if not reduce and/or eliminate  the capability of the enemies of the state, like the New People’s  Army or the NPAs, to threaten the peace and order situation not only of our hinterland but also  the lowland  communities.

I doff my hat to all of us who in one way or another have contributed to putting us in a “conflict-manageable and development-ready” status, and I would like to make special mention to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, more particularly the 302nd Infantry Brigade under  Brigadier General Francisco Patrimonio, and the 3rd Infantry Division under Major General Aurelio Baladar.

I am truly happy with this development because this is what we have been working for, this is what we have hoped to achieve under our centerpiece program dubbed “Sa Probinsiya-MagDEGAMO Ta” which is aimed   at attaining peace and development through  Health, Education and Livelihood Programs and Projects.

It is also noteworthy to mention that the convergence of government efforts such as the AFPs  “Bayanihan”  project and other civil-military activities in conflict areas, including the peace talks and our very own efforts to bring government services at the doorstep of our constituents, like the medical missions, have gradually earned the respect and won the hearts of the local communities such that they volunteer to serve as the  “eyes  and ears” of the military by reporting  any suspected presence  of  undesirable elements in their areas.  Another positive result is that NPA combatants have returned to the folds of the law by surrendering their arms and ammunitions to the authorities.  In the process, they were given incentives and financial assistance by our government for them to begin life anew with their families.

My friends, our journey to peace and development does not end here.  In fact, our journey has  just began. The declaration of Negros Oriental as a conflict manageable and development-ready province is fraught with challenges.

Every battle that we won, every honor that we received, has a corresponding duty and responsibility. As we look towards the future, we are  faced with the daunting task of sustaining  the momentum of peace. We have just begun the first step. And our journey continues.

As representative of the over  1.2 million Oriental Negrense, I bring with me the trust and belief  of our people that this Declaration would not remain a piece of public document.  What is important  is the  fact that during our incumbency as Governor, we have successfully reduced the number of insurgents to a “manageable  level” paving the way to peace and development.  And we are now ready to proceed to the next step. As the great scientist, Albert Einstein says:  “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” 

Finally, as we set our hands unto this document, may we all be reminded of the blood of those men and women who perished during those  years of armed struggles, and may the tears of those orphaned children serve as the proverbial  ink that will seal this Declaration.   Never again shall there be war in this Land becausePeace is a luxury we cannot afford to lose in our lifetime. Let this be our mission; and let this be our prayer.

May Peace be with us all!  

Note: Governor Roel R. Degamo’s message delivered during the joint declaration of Negros Oriental as  “conflict-manageable and development-ready province”