MARINDUQUE folks have all the reasons to be proud nowadays since their province has been declared ‘insurgency-free’ by security and local government official, the third to be given such a tag after Cavite and Romblon which, just like Marinduque forms part of the so-called Mimaropa region.
In a talk with the Journal Group, Police Regional Office 4-B director, Police Brigadier General Tomas C. Apolinario Jr. said that Marinduque was initially recommended to be declared insurgency-free in July 2009 since no insurgency-related activities-both violent and non-violent--were recorded in the province that year.
“After a series of validation by different intelligence units, the province was finally declared insurgency-free today actually the 3rd under the administration of President Duterte,” Apolinario said.
The declaration means that the province is very peaceful and ready for further development due to its peace and order condition which is conducive for business and tourism.
Marinduque, whose capital is Boac municipality, is home to nearly 235,000 people. Some parts of Verde Island Passage, the center of world’s marine biodiversity and a protected marine area are also within the province’s waters.
In 2013, Marinduque got the distinction of being ranked no. 1 by security forces in the country specifically the PNP as the most peaceful province due to its low crime rate statistics alternately ranking with the province of Batanes yearly. The agricultural province is home to the world-famous Moriones Festival, one of the oldest religious festivals in the country which is being held every Holy Week.
A province can be declared as ‘insurgency-free’ if it meets the following parameters: there has been no influence of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army; there are no record of any NPA-initiated violent incidents; all criminal activities are manageable by the police force; and the province has noted positive indicators of improved delivery of social services in its rural areas, such as health services and wider reach of justice as articulated before the Provincial Peace and Order Council.
Apolinario said that with Marinduque and Romblon already declared as ‘insurgency-free,’ they expect much brighter future ahead for Mimaropa region which the PNP, the Armed Forces and local government officials envision to be a leader in ecotourism and a major investment hub here.
The PRO4B and the Armed Forces, along with the Marinduque local government headed by Governor Romulo Bacorro made the series of validation this year and concluded that the province is already free from NPA threats.
“We have declared Marinduque as a Stable Internal Peace and Security (Insurgency-Free) Province,” said Apolinario during the ceremonies attended by top officials including Presidential Adviser for Southern Luzon Dennis Luzon, Gov. Bacoro, AFP Southern Luzon Command chief, Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay, Philippine National Police Director for Integrated Police Operations-Southern Luzon, Major Gen. Erickson T. Velasquez and Bishop Marcelino Maralit of the Diocese of Boac.
Last February, the PNP and the AFP also declared Romblon as ‘insurgency-free.’
The province had the distinction of becoming the second province to be declared as ‘insurgency-free’ since the start of the Duterte administration, the first being Cavite. It means that the presence of NPA guerrillas in the province is now zero although security forces are still closely watching the situation.
Romblon is an archipelagic province whose main islands include Tablas, the largest which covers nine municipalities, Sibuyan with its three towns, as well as the smaller island municipalities of Corcuera, Banton, Concepcion, San Jose, and Romblon, the provincial capital.
Known as the ‘Marble Capital of the Philippines,’ Romblon relies on agriculture particularly rice and copra farming as well as fishing as its livelihood. The province is also a favorite ecotourism destination due to its scores of white sand beaches, diving spots, mountains and rain forests.
One of its ‘favorite sons’ is retired Police General Wilben M. Mayor, a former PNP spokesman who became a PRO4-B director. Mayor is a classmate from PMA ‘Sandiwa’ Class of 1985 of the elder brother of the current Mimaropa police director, retired PNP Deputy Chief for Administration, Gen. Ramon A. Apolinario.
It was the 2nd time that Romblon has been declared ‘insurgency-free,’ the 1st being made in December 2009 following a signing of a memorandum of agreement between top military officials and the Romblon local government that time.
However, the tag was erased amid the confirmed reemergence of NPA groups in the province who are known for launching attacks on security forces and other ‘soft targets’ including those who have failed to heed their demand for revolutionary tax.
Romblon is known for being an extension area of NPA bands originally based in Mindoro island. NPA leaders in the past were believed to have sent top cadres and few members to establish so-called ‘base areas’ and organize their mass supporters in the province, specifically in Tablas Island in the late 90s.