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Cops raise flag on ex-rebel territory

POLICE Regional Office 11 director, Brigadier General Filmore B. Escobal on Friday led a historic 1st flag-raising ceremony at a former New People’s Army-controlled area in Digos City in Davao del Sur which will be converted into a future police training camp for Mindanao policemen.

Escobal, members of the PRO11 Command Group, Regional Staff and all PRO11 Provincial Police Office directors and other personnel joined the singing of the national anthem and the raising of the colors at Camp Kapatagan located in Sitio Lutangan in Bgy. Kapatagan in Digos City, a 100-hectare wide protected zone where a training camp for the Mindanao police force will be constructed.

PRO11 Deputy Regional Director for Operations, Colonel Edgar Alan Okubo said Escobal initiated all efforts to occupy the 100-hectare area which culminated with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources giving the Southern Mindanao police force a SAPA or a Special Agreement Protected Area which will allow the PRO11 to develop the site and built a Philippine National Police Training Camp for all policemen in Mindanao needing to undergo specialized courses for promotion or entry into the force.

As part of its agreement with the DENR, the PRO11 will protect the forest and landscape in the area and ensure their preservation to attract more visitors including foreign and domestic tourists and nature lovers.

Bgy. Kapatagan chairman Juanito Morales said the area has been offered to the PNP in general and the PRO11 in particular as early as 2004 but officials did not bought the idea owing to security reasons and the bad road condition.

“We would like to thank Brig. Gen. Escobal for starting the initiatives to occupy the future training camp and seeking the assistance of different stakeholders in order to repair the road leading to the main facility,” the local village official said.

Morales said it was only Escobal who decided to follow-up the proposal to develop the area into a useful facility for the police force.

Escobal said the program would not have materialized without the partnership between the police, the community and other government agencies and their stakeholders.

“What we are seeing now is a vast track of land but in the future will be the biggest camp with buildings where we will develop personnel and hone their skills and values,” he said.

According to Escobal, Bgy. Kapatagan became vulnerable to NPA presence in the past due to the virtual absence of security forces in the area.

“Kahit gaano tayo kagaling kung pagdating ng contest ay absent tayo, our adversaries will win because of default. Now we are making ourselves present and today we will show the people in Kapatagan, Davao Del Sur na hindi natin sila nakalimutan,” the Southern Mindanao police director said on Friday.

The camp’s first occupants are 264 PRO11 trainees undergoing the tough BISOC or Basic Internal Security Operations Course Class 2019-01 “Lagablab”.

The students named their training and formation area as “Lagablab Peak” to honor the name of their class and to thank the PRO11 leadership for giving them the privilege to be the ‘pioneer students’ allowed to occupy the area and train there.

Escobal also said that a platoon of officers from the PRO11 Regional Mobile Force Battalion headed by Col. Richard Basco and a company from the 11th Special Action Battalion of the PNP Special Action Force headed by Major Jones Aspilan will be using the area for training purposes and quartering.

As envisioned by the PRO11, Camp Kapatagan will soon become a center of tourism in Davao del Sur as the Department of Tourism included it for eco-tourism development along with Mount Apo which is located n the boundaries of Davao City and Davao del Sur; Mount Hamuguitan and Mayo Bay in Davao Oriental; and Samal Island in Davao del Norte.

The name of the camp is interim as it has temporarily adopted the name of the barangay. The area is known for its cool weather with temperature ranging between 18 -20 degree celsius due to its high elevation with the clouds lower than the training area.

The camp has also a very near and good view of Mount Apo and a breathtaking view of the plains of Bgy. Kapatagan. The place particularly offers a perspective view of the distant Davao City at night.