ZONE OF PEACE. Mayor Edgar Teves (right) of Valencia, Negros Oriental is shown in a recent meeting with Agricultural Program Coordinating Officer (APCO) of Negros Oriental Sarah J. Perocho, and Edward Du, Central Visayas regional governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The proposed Tamlang Valley Zone of Peace was discussed during the meeting. (Photo courtesy of Edward Du)

DUMAGUETE CITY – Businessmen in the province of Negros Oriental are set to transform Tamlang Valley, which once was a haven for Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) rebels, into a zone of peace.

The project is seen to benefit four local government units (LGUs) that straddle the area's boundaries.

Once known as a “no man’s land” during the late '80s and early '90s at the height of the insurgency in the province, the remote Tamlang Valley is bounded by the towns of Sta. Catalina, Siaton, Valencia, and Sibulan.

Only two barangays are now the only ones still affected by the insurgency, namely Dobdob in Valencia and Talalak in Sta. Catalina and the valley has seen some developments over the past years.

However, there is still much work to be done to uplift the lives of the people there, said Dumaguete-based entrepreneur Edward Du, former president of the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NOCCI) and now Central Visayas regional governor of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

Initial talks with the LGU chief executives were held recently to discuss the proposed Tamlang Valley Zone of Peace Integrated Development Project (TVZPIDP) and they have expressed their intent to support the project, he said in an interview on Friday.

“For the longest time, Tamlang Valley has never been developed fully in the absence of funding from the national government, and the insurgency-affected barangays there are covered by the ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict),” Du said in a mix of English and Cebuano dialect.

The ELCAC is a program under the Whole of Nation Approach of President Rodrigo Duterte to end the insurgency and attain sustainable and inclusive peace.

“So, as a result of the ELCAC consultation, there is a need to develop Tamlang Valley because of the insurgency in that area, so we have asked the NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) in Region 7, headed by regional director Efren Carreon, to contact the Hungarian government to assist us in making the feasibility study for Tamlang Valley,” Du said.

The project, according to him, is seen to provide better living conditions for the farmers and other residents of the valley, with an integrated development project to include infrastructure, irrigation, education, health, and agriculture, among others.

“We are hoping that we can obtain a foreign loan of 100 million US dollars from the Hungarian government,” he said.

Last week, a consultation was held with Tamlang Valley farmers in Barangay Kakha and Sitio Avocado, Barangay Talalak in Sta. Catalina, attended by Department of Agriculture Region 7 regional director Salvador Diputado, Agricultural Program Coordinating Officer (APCO) of Negros Oriental  Sarah J. Perocho and party, he added.

Du said they are hoping to get the respective resolutions from the different municipal councils endorsing the project soon so that these can be forwarded to the Hungarian government.

“This is also part of our Covid recovery program of NOCCI, together with our partners,” he said. (PNA)