Thursday, February 20, 2014

Salceda to declare Albay as rebel-free province
By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY, Feb. 18 (PNA) -- With the silence of the New People's Army rebels in Albay during the past few months, Governor Joey Sarte Salceda said Tuesday that he is set to declare the province as insurgency free soon.

Albay is where the bulk of rebels had concentrated in the past decades -- specifically in the '80s.

“Albay will be the first insurgency-free province in the country under the helm of President Benigno Aquino,” the governor said.

His pronouncement came after the province opened its door as an international gateway for chartered flights from other countries early this month.

Salceda also underscored the development projects going on in the countryside and expressed belief that this will eventually solve the four-decade insurgency problem in the province.

The concurrent Regional Development Council chairman said development through infrastructure projects and investments can hasten economic growth in the hinterlands.

The provincial government of Albay, in partnership with Army’s 901st Infantry Brigade under Col. Raul Farnacio, has launched a series of development programs dubbed as “Countryside Development Caravan."

The initiative is being done in coordination with local government units, nongovernment organizations, Office of the Civil Defense, national government agencies and uniformed services to push economic development in far-flung areas, thus, rendering the presence of rebels here irrelevant.

Salceda said the caravan is the initiative of the provincial government based on the "Pledge of an Albayano" to make the province the most livable place in the country.

The caravan is a multi-discipline partnership of the government to give free medical and dental mission and provide livelihood development training, animal health services and information education campaign to the people residing in far-flung areas here.

Before the launch of the countryside development caravan here, the provincial government and the Philippine Army rolled out the Kalayaan sa Barangay Program (KBP) to bring basic services to communities.

Under the KBP, Army engineers have constructed school buildings, electrification systems, water systems and farm-to-market roads.

Aside from development projects, the government troops have beefed up security to prevent NPA rebels from extorting from contractors of development projects in Bicol.

Salceda said the development programs, disaster and rescue operations, and respect for human rights have drastically diminished the influence of the CPP-NPA in Bicol, specifically in Albay.

Earlier, AFP Chief of Staff general Emmanuel T. Bautista lauded the efforts of government forces in Southern Luzon, specifically in Albay, for achieving peace in the countryside.

In terms of disaster preparedness, Albay leads the way as first disaster responders. (PNA) FPV/FGS/RBB/cbd/