BAGANI WARRIORS. The military recognizes Monday (Aug. 22, 2022) the contribution of the Bagani warriors, all members of the Indigenous Peoples community who are trained by the military to defend themselves from New People's Army atrocities in Davao Occidental. The province was declared free from insurgency on Aug. 18, 2022 after the collapse of the rebels' remaining guerrilla unit. (Photo courtesy of 10ID)

DAVAO CITY – Although Davao Occidental has been declared insurgency-free, the military has continued to capacitate the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in the area to defend themselves against communist rebels attempting to encroach on their ancestral domains.

"It helped that we have trained some of the IPs to defend themselves, their lands, and the members of their tribes against attempts of the New People's Army (NPA) rebels to harass them,” 2nd Lt. Tiffany Joy Bago, the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion (73IB) civil-military officer, said in a press briefer Monday.

Bago said the 73IB has witnessed how the IP militia, also called Bagani, aided them in dismantling New People's Army (NPA) units in the province.

“They would volunteer to undergo training, and they became our eyes in the area making sure that their community is secure," she said.

In addition, Bago said the military has also been consistent in strengthening its presence and relations with the residents, who previously were forced to shelter and provide food for the NPA's dismantled guerrilla fronts in Davao Occidental.

"The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict programs that pushed for development have been very beneficial in achieving our task to clear communist insurgencies. The newly-built roads and tourism sites in areas formerly occupied by NPA rebels have enlivened the communities and encouraged the economy to prosper, which the IPs liked so much," Bago explained.

To sustain the zero presence of insurgencies, the 73IB said it is regularly monitoring its areas of responsibility and keeping in contact with its host communities.

On Aug. 18, Maj. Gen. Nolasco Mempin, the Army’s 10th Infantry Division's commander, led the formal declaration of Davao Occidental as ”insurgency-free.”

Mempin recognized the aggressive military and police operations that led to the collapse of the NPA's Guerrilla Front Tala, which was once active in the peripheries of the province. (PNA)