TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Army in Eastern Visayas would continue its localized peace engagement (LPE) meant to end insurgency despite efforts to revive negotiations between the national government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Brig. Gen. Noel Vestuir, commander of the Philippine Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade based in Borongan City, Eastern Samar, said the LPE has been very effective in their campaign to encourage rebels to surrender.
“The peace talks at the national level and our localized peace engagement have different objectives. Even if there are negotiations between top government officials and NDF leaders, we will continue what we have been doing on the ground,” Vestuir said in a phone interview Wednesday.
Since the transfer of the 802nd Infantry Brigade from Leyte to Eastern Samar last June 2023, there have been 25 NPA members, 19 Militia ng Bayan members, and 61 underground mass organization members who surrendered to local authorities.
These surrenderers from some parts of Eastern Samar and Samar provinces have turned over or revealed the locations of 33 assorted firearms and 12 banned anti-personnel mines.
The major undertaking under the Brigade’s LPE is the Friends Rescued Engagement through their Families (FReE Families) project the Eastern Samar provincial task force to end local communist armed conflict.
Family members of active NPA members and supporters have been capacitated to negotiate for the peaceful surrender of their loved ones and family members with active support from third-party peace advocates, former rebels, local government units, non-government organizations, religious sectors, and other key actors.
Vestuir said the LPE has significantly contributed to the weakening of NPA in the southern part of Samar Island.
Early this year, two active NPA platoons in the area had six squads. Through LPE, the squads went down to four.
Last month, the Philippine government and the NDF agreed to a "principled and peaceful resolution of the armed conflict" through the Oslo Joint Communique. The NPA is the NDF’s armed wing. (PNA)