The province of Negros Oriental will be declared “conflict manageable and development ready” on May 7, in a ceremony to be attended by key officials of the Philippine Army, the Philippine National Police, and the provincial government.

The term “conflict manageable and development ready” refers to the reduction of the insurgency problem in the province to an insignificant level, and the civilian government will now take the lead in addressing it.

Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, commander of the 302 nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, Senior Supt. Mariano Natu-el Jr., OIC police provincial director, and Provincial Administrator Richard Enojo discussed at a press conference yesterday, their roles after the resolution takes effect.

Patrimonio said that Negros Oriental is not insurgency-free, although the number of New People’s Army rebels is dwindling. He said there are less than 100 NPA members now operating in the province, and only five barangays remain affected by the insurgency.

He added that the Philippine Army will not pull out from Negros Oriental, but will see a shift in their roles. This means that Army troops will concentrate their deployment in insurgency-affected areas, while the PNP will be gradually introduced to barangays that are now safe for non-combat-oriented policemen to manage.

There will be no turnover of the internal peace and security operations, from the AFP to the PNP, except for changes in the operational structure, Patrimonio said.

Natuel said the PNP is ready to take over the areas to be assigned them by the military that he describes as an additional task for the police.

Enojo said the provincial government is prepared for the responsibilities and efforts to declare Negros Oriental as conflict manageable and development ready.

On May 7, Secretary Voltaire Gazmin of the Department of National Defense, Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Director-General Alan Purisima, PNP chief, will lead the signing of the resolution in Dumaguete City.

Another highlight will be the signing of a joint letter directive for the implementation of the normalization process by officials of the AFP, PNP and the local government.

Several activities have also been lined up for that day such as sky-diving, biking, band drill exhibition, unity dance, dragon and lion dance, kite flying competition, “Magdula Ta” featuring Filipino games, a medical mission, and unveiling of the Bayanihan mural painting.

Negros Oriental is the only province in the Central Visayas that still faces the insurgency problem. Bohol, Cebu and Siquijor are now all insurgency-free.

The government is targeting the declaration of Negros Oriental as insurgency-free in two years or so, Patrimonio said.*JFP