YOUTH SUMMIT. Brig. Gen. Leonardo Peña (6th from left), commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade, leads Army and civilian officials and the youth during the graduation of the Youth Leadership Summit in Mabinay, Negros Oriental last July. Peña has reiterated the need to protect the youth from the recruitment activities of the CPP-NPA-NDF. (PNA file photo by Judy Flores Partlow)

DUMAGUETE CITY – Government troops must continue their efforts to protect the youth from recruitment of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) as they are vulnerable targets, an Army official here said on Monday.

“My wish and my desire for the youth, actually, is to give them the right inspiration that they may become a better generation than ours,” Brig. Gen. Leonardo Peña, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade based in Negros Oriental, told the Philippine News Agency.

Peña said to achieve this, the older generations must set a good example to them and provide them empowerment venues such as leadership and skills training, “to keep them aware of the situation in our province”.

He said they have initiated campus visits in the different schools but it would be better if the provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC) would take the lead.

“That’s why I keep on convincing the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) here and other partner stakeholders that should be given focus, and hopefully, that would happen soon,” he added.

The brigade, through the 11th Infantry Battalion (11IB) led by Lt. Col. Roderick Salayo, is conducting a series of Youth Leadership Summits (YLS) in different towns and cities under its area of responsibility, as part of efforts to empower the youth while helping promote peace and development.

Aided by the Youth for Peace provincial chapter, the Negros Oriental government, and other partner agencies, a provincial YLS Summit is being eyed hopefully before the end of this year, bringing together the youth leaders from across the province.

Meanwhile, Peña said they are strengthening their watch, especially in the southwest borders following the ambush-slay of two intelligence soldiers from the 47th Infantry Battalion in Sipalay last Thursday.

He said the perpetrators are believed to be members of the NPA’s South West Front of the Komiteng Rehiyon Negros, Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor.

While they operate mainly in the “CHICKS” (Candoni, Hinoba-an, Ilog, Cauayan, Kabankalan City, and Sipalay City all in Negros Occidental) area, there is always the likelihood that these rebels will cross borders to Negros Oriental as they are highly mobile.

Peña said Hinoba-an was placed under the responsibility of the 11IB to help strengthen security in the south and help the government’s operating troops in the area. (PNA)