Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday, January 8. said that despite the plans made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), it is still impossible to end the communist insurgency this year.
“We cannot do it (end insurgency) this year because that is a big problem,” Lorenzana admitted during the sidelines of Tuesday’s joint Department of National Defense-AFP new year’s call in Camp Aguinaldo.
He also pointed out that the communist insurgency has been festering for the last 50 years.
“We cannot end it in one year. But if our target would be the remaining three years of President Duterte’s presidency, we can probably do it,” he added.
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., AFP chief of staff, reminded defense and military officials in his speech at the event of their objective this year.
“Let me remind everyone that our [objective] for 2019 is to achieve the President’s desire to ultimately win the peace and finally put an end to local communist armed conflict,” he said.
According to him, this could be attained by “unifying our efforts at various levels of government with the end view of developing conflict-resilient communities” — referring to the national task force created to end the communist insurgency.
He also assured the public that ending the communist insurgency is “attainable” in a few years, explaining that localized peace talks and the implementation of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program, or E-CLIP, had been working to persuade droves of New People’s Army (NPA) fighters to surrender.
The current NPA strength is at approximately 4,000 regular members, as placed by the defense secretary, while its militia and underground movement is at some 50,000 members.
Too many things to handle
“We have to move [the 2019 deadline] because it is not yet attainable. There are still too many things to handle,” Lorenzana said.
He also said he would support the possible revival of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA — as long as negotiations were held in the Philippines and there were localized peace talks that were already working.
“Mr. Sison, if you want the peace process, as the president said, let’s talk here in the Philippines, not in Norway,” Lorenzana addressed.
He also asked the communist rebels to be sincere in seeking peace.
“What we are seeing here is because of the success of our localized peace talks, he (Sison) wants negotiations to resume so it will be held abroad,” he said.