DUMAGUETE CITY, Dec. 7 (PIA) -- The 302nd Infantry Brigade (IB) of the Philippine Army (PA) led a three-day Provincial Youth Leadership Summit (YLS) here attended by around 110 young people from different areas in Negros Oriental.
YLS officially opened yesterday at the YMCA-Dumaguete Conference Hall with the theme: "Ang Kabatan-unan ang Paglaum sa Nasud."
The participants came from La Libertad, Mabinay, Bais City, Pamplona, Valencia, Sibulan, Dumaguete City, Bacong, Zambonaguita, Bayawan City, and representatives from Silliman University ROTC Unit.
PA 3rd Infantry Division (ID) Chief of Staff Col. Wilfredo Villahermosa joined the opening ceremony and delivered the keynote message.
In his speech, Villahermosa encouraged the youth to continue supporting the Philippine Army, citing that the YLS is one of their programs to reach out to young people and enhance their leadership potentials.
"We do this activity para magiging informed kayo and also to capacitate your leadership potentials. Pinag-aralan itong activity na ito (We do this activity to inform you and also to capacitate your leadership potentials. This activity was planned carefully for you)," Villahermosa told his audience.
He discussed insurgency in his message, noting that organisations affiliated with the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army (CPP-NPA) target the recruitment of young people because they energetic, passionate, easy to persuade, and can highly influence their peers.
He described them to be "good at deception."
"We just hope that after this seminar, when you go back to your municipalities, save the other youths in your area," Villahermosa said as he also shared with them some encounters in other provinces where some of the casualties were young people recruited by rebel groups.
In a media interview after the opening ceremony, Villahermosa reiterated that there are ways for young people to show nationalism without turning to armed struggle.
"Ano ba ang mapapala ng mga kabataan natin sakaling pumapasok sa kanila? Sasabihin na nasyonalismo but we can always be nationalistic in a way na hindi natin kailangan magdala ng armas. We can do it in our way na hindi tayo magiging against sa gobyerno. Lahat tayo pwede maging committed para sa improvement ng ating bansa but taking arms or mag-a-armas ka ng sarili mo, definitely that is a violation (What can they gain when they enter these organisations? They say it's about nationalism but we can always be nationalistic without turning to armed struggle. We can do it without going against the government. All of us can commit for the improvement of our country but if you take arms or arm yourself, that is definitely a violation)," he said.
Participants during the summit engaged on formal sessions tackling topics on drug awareness, values formation, youth awareness and youth infiltration, disaster preparedness, the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act, religious interventions, among others.
302nd IB Commander Col. Noel Baluyan disclosed that the YLS is a joint undertaking between the Philippine Army and the Provincial Government of Negros Oriental through the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC).
The YLS can also be an avenue to promote the government's thrust to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) among young people.
"Pwede natin to ikabit sa ELCAC - one of the information awareness of ELCAC. We have to continuously inform the youth sa kanilang role. We believe the youth have a critical role to play sa peace and development particularly sa Negros Oriental (We can tie this up to ELCAC or this can be one of the information awareness activities of ELCAC. We have to continuously inform the youth on their role. We believe the youth have a critical role to play in peace and development particularly in Negros Oriental)," Baluyan said.
The brigade commander is looking forward to the sustainability of this program for young people in the next couple of years.
Meanwhile, Dumaguete City Vice Mayor Alan Gel Cordova also shared his message to the participants.
Cordova urged the participants to be aware on the current issues of the country so they can develop critical thinking and make critical decisions as leaders. (ral/PIA7-Negros Oriental)