Eastmincom chief wants to adopt Caraga peace zone initiative

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DAVAO CITY — The chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) said military units should address issues in conflict-affected areas under the peace zone concept, with Caraga region as the benchmark for the initiative.

Major Gen. Felimon Santos Jr. said he personally witnessed the positive results from the peace and development concept in Caraga during a visit with military units under the 4th Infantry Division (ID) on Wednesday.

The 4th ID’s peace and development concept in Caraga was an initiative of its former commander, now Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff, Gen. Benjamin Madrigal.

Madrigal also headed Eastmincom before assuming the AFP chief post.

Santos, who took the helm of the Eastmincom last month, said he wants to adopt the same concept in other regions and ordered all units to start establishing peace and development zones.

“Facilitate and work for convergence to address concerns and resolve issues in conflict-affected areas through the Peace and Development Zone concept,” Santos said Friday.

Santos said the initiative should be a joint effort of the Regional Development Council (RDC) through the whole-of-nation approach.

“Declaring areas as Peace and Development Zones is a good template that will facilitate the achievement of durable peace in the region,” he added.

According to Lt. Ezra Balagtey, spokesperson of Eastmincom, the Peace and Development Zone is a peace-building initiative that promotes the establishment of durable peace by addressing the root causes of conflict through reconciliation, peace constituency building, social, political and economic transformation.

He said the conflict-affected areas that are eyed as peace and development zones are those already cleared or have a minimal threat from the NPA.

Balagtey said Caraga began their peace zones in August last year in the areas of Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte with 116 identified villages; six in Butuan; 17 in Agusan del Norte; 22 in Agusan del Sur; 32 in Surigao del Norte; and 39 in Surigao del Sur.

Madrigal has been eyeing areas, especially those used by the New People’s Army (NPA) as bases, into peace zones where development can thrive and people’s lives are improved.

He said the plan needs an integral approach, and that the whole country must participate, emphasizing that peace and development initiatives cannot be achieved solely by the military.

Madrigal said development efforts should not be confined on the areas affected by the communist insurgency, but also around neighboring areas to encourage NPA community supporters to actively engage with the government’s programs. -PNA

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