By Calvin Cordova
CEBU CITY—Twenty-nine areas in Central Visayas were identified as election watchlist areas (EWAs), potential trouble spots during the elections next year.
Authorities employed a color-coding system in identifying election hotspots or watchlist areas.
Red is for areas known for having armed groups and a history of violence during past elections.
Orange is for areas where there are armed groups, while yellow is for areas where there is intense political rivalry.
The identification of EWAS was made during a coordination meeting last Thursday at the Central Visayas police headquarters attended by officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), military and police.
The cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, and Danao and the towns of Ronda and San Fernando were tagged as yellow.
Another town in Cebu, Tuburan, was tagged as orange.
In Negros Oriental, the orange areas were Guihulngan City, Bais City, Siaton City, Ayungon, Canlaon City, Mabinay, Tayasan, Sta. Catalina, Zamboanguita, and Manjuyod.
Yellow areas in Bohol were the towns of Buenavista, Clarin, Danao, and Pilar.
Two other towns in Bohol, Tubigon and Inabanga, were classified as orange.
Considered as yellow in Siquijor are the towns of Enrique Villanueva, Larena, Lazi, Maria, San Juan, and Siquijor.
Chief Supt. Debold Sinas, regional police chief, said additional police and military personnel will be deployed in areas considered as hotspots.
The deployment was also discussed in the 4th Quarter Regional Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center Meeting held Thursday.
Sinas said the meeting was also in response to the Memorandum Order No. 32 issued by President Duterte “reinforcing the guidelines for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in the implementation of measures to suppress and prevent lawless violence.”
“As part of MO 32, we will be deploying additional troops in Negros Oriental and other areas where there is insurgency. The number of additional troops that will be deployed will depend on the outcome of the meeting,” said Sinas.
The meeting also aims to establish better coordination between the police and the military “to prevent misencounters,” he said.
Col. Noel Baluyan, commander of the Central Command Task Force Cebu, advised the public not to be alarmed by the increased police and military presence.
“It has nothing to do with militarization. This is just to deter crimes, part of our goal to address insurgency,” said Baluyan.