The chief of the Army's 4th Infantry Division (4ID) has cited the contributions of the 23rd Infantry Battalion to the peace and order in Agusan province and in parts of Misamis Oriental.
Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio Gacal, 4ID commander, gave the recognition during the 23IB's 37th founding anniversary celebration on Sunday (March 1) at its headquarters here.
Like any Philippine Army units, the 23rd IB has changed over the years, but the core values of honor, patriotism, and duty still remain. Your commitment and dedication to serving the people and secure the land are as strong as ever, Gacal told the 23IB troopers, led by its battalion commander, Lt. Col. Francisco Molina, Jr.
Gacal said the battalion has been a "vital contributor to the overall economic gains in the province of Agusan del Norte and the whole of Caraga Region, particularly Butuan City that serves as the economic hub of the region."
He said 23IB's peace and development efforts in Butuan City and in the towns of Las Nieves, Buenavista, Nasipit, and Carmen in Agusan del Norte have provided a social fence an invisible yet powerful barrier that secured the emerging metropolis from threats posed by lawless elements, particularly the CPP NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines New People's Army)."
Among the economic gains, Gacal said, is the increase in the number of new businesses in the province, in Butuan City and the whole region.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said that in 2018, a big chunk of Caraga's 3.2 percent increase in the gross domestic product was due to the increase in the number of new businesses. In 2019, PSA data said that the province of Agusan del Norte had a total of 5,441 businesses registered, a manifestation of enhanced business confidence among entrepreneurs and investors, he said.
Gacal added that the economic improvements translated into "new jobs generated for the people that significantly increased the income among families in the area".
In his message, Molina cited the "significant gains" of the 23IB last year, among these the 17 engagements with communist guerrillas that resulted in the death of seven NPA rebels and the seizure of firearms, subversive documents, and medicines.
Aside from combat operations, he said 23IB also intensified its campaigns in schools to "shield the students from the recruitment of the NPA".
He said the unit has also supported Indigenous People (IP) communities in the area, particularly in the fight against the "intrusion of the NPA to their ancestral domains, harassments, and intimidations".
The IPs play an important role in the fight against insurgency especially in the recruitment of the NPA, Molina said.
He also expressed gratitude to the "continuing support" of the local government units (LGUs) and government agencies to the Army.
The celebration was graced by Agusan del Norte 2nd District Representative Maria Angelica Amante Matba, 4Brig. Gen. Maurito Licudine, 402nd Infantry Brigade commander, and retired Col. Alexander Noble, a former commander of 23IB.
SOURCE: PHILIPPINES NEWS AGENCY