CONSULTATION. Lt. Col. Roderick Salayo, 11th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (right), addresses residents of Barangay Talalak in Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental province on Thursday (Aug. 11, 2022). During the activity, residents requested the rehabilitation of their primary road to improve the quality of life of the residents. (PNA photo by Judy Flores Partlow) 

DUMAGUETE CITY – Residents of a far-flung village affected by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) insurgency are requesting local and provincial officials to have the primary road leading to their village be rehabilitated.

This was one of the main issues and concerns that residents raised during a consultation-dialogue and peace concert on Thursday at Sitio Avocado in Barangay Talalak of Sta. Catalina town that was initiated by the 11th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Lt. Col. Roderick Salayo, 11th IB commander, told the Philippine News Agency on Friday that “these primary and secondary issues raised by our compatriots in far-flung barangays can be solved through the local chief executives of the province, municipality, and barangays”.

Salayo said these officials are the chairpersons of the Task Forces to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC) at their respective levels and areas.

“Good governance can be manifested through these leaders and each agency, alongside us in the Armed Forces, respond immediately and help hasten the resolution of these issues for the peace and progress in the area,” he said in the Filipino dialect.

Talalak barangay chairperson Edmar Bigay, in an interview with the Philippine News Agency, said it is imperative that the 21-kilometer road from the national highway to Sitio Avocado, which passes through other sub-villages of Talalak, be rehabilitated to improve the quality of life of the residents.

He said Talalak used to be a “stronghold” of the CPP-NPA before the arrival of the 11IB. “Based on our observation, the insurgency problem in the barangay has greatly reduced," Bigay said in the Cebuano dialect, although he admitted that there are still a few villagers who are in the underground movement.

“Many have already returned to the folds of the law, while others in the barangay also already understand the sincerity of the government to help the people,” he added.

In the past, Bigay said government programs and projects rarely reach far-flung villages like Talalak, especially in Sitio Avocado.

He lauded the 11th IB and Salayo for a “well-managed peace and order” in the barangay and in other areas of the battalion's coverage.

Board Member Jessica Jane Villanueva, who chairs the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s Committee on Peace and Order and represented Governor Pryde Henry Teves, said the issues and concerns of the villagers are valid and she will present this to the provincial chief executive.

“With Talalak being identified as one of the areas under the TF-ELCAC, we will prioritize giving attention to their priority concern, which is the road,” she said in mixed English and Cebuano.

Villanueva said she initially committed to the residents who requested the repair of a boarding house for Avocado government scholars at the Negros Oriental State University-Bayawan City campus which needs repair.

The legislator said she will help source materials for the repair of the facility to be undertaken through the “dagyawan” (bayanihan) approach. In the course of the consultation, Salayo offered that the 11IB would undertake the repair of the boarding house instead.

The residents pointed out that they could not possibly participate in the "bayanihan" in the absence of resources including transportation fares.

Other minor concerns include water distribution and power interruptions.

Also present during the activity was Vice Mayor Carl Jardiniano of Sta. Catalina town, who said he will also bring these issues and concerns to Mayor Peve Ligan.

Meanwhile, the officials and villagers alike praised the 11IB for holding a peace concert as another means to encourage NPA rebels to return to the folds of the law.

“It is a different way for the 11IB to reach out to civilians to encourage their participation in the government’s efforts to end the long-running insurgency,” Bigay said.

“Through their songs and interpretative dances, it is easy to understand the government’s sincerity in helping people like us in the hinterlands to not lose hope and trust the government’s sincerity to bring peace and development in our barangays,” he added.

Villanueva, meanwhile, lauded the peace concert saying “it is unique and a deviation from the usual talks in a dialogue or consultation that can sometimes be boring, with the people being overwhelmed with the information shared to them”.

“With this peace concert, people can understand the messages put forth and at the same enjoy the presentations,” she said.

“This also helps to improve the image of the Army and the police compared to previous times, as people can now see that they are approachable and willing to help them in whatever way possible,” she added.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The National Democratic Front has been formally designated as a terrorist organization by the Anti-Terrorism Council on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA created in April 1973. (PNA)