Philippines travel advice

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has declared the entire municipality of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato as insurgency-free.

South Cotabato board member Agustin Demaala Jr., chair of the board’s committee on public order and safety, said Friday such declaration was issued by the Army’s 1002nd Brigade following a series of validation and assessment in the area.

He said the declaration specifically covered all 19 barangays of Lake Sebu, which is located along the boundary areas of South Cotabato and the provinces of Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat.

“These 19 barangays are now free from CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) influence,” Demaala said in a radio interview.

Citing results of the 1002nd Brigade’s assessment, he said the NPA fronts operating in the area were forced to abandon and dismantle their organized structures in Lake Sebu’s 19 barangays due to their declining influence.

He specifically cited the NPA’s local political propaganda units, which mainly assists the group’s operations and recruitment activities.

Demaala, who is a retired Army major general, said the rebels were eventually forced to focus their operations in the boundary areas of Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat.

The official said such situation was the result of the enhanced security operations as well as peace and development initiatives conducted by the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion (IB) in the area in the last two years.

The official credited the declaration to the “focused and effective” leadership of Lt. Col. Shalimar Imperial, who formally left his post on Friday as commanding officer of the 27th IB following a two-year stint.

He was replaced by Lt. Col. Ronald Jess Alcudia, who was previously assigned at the 4th Infantry Division in Northern Mindanao.

Imperial will assume as the staff officer for education and training or G8 of the 10th Infantry Division in Mawab, Compostela Valley.