New 3-year deadline set to finish off NPA
MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday announced a new three-year deadline to finish off communist insurgency.
“If you recall, this has been going for the past 50 years and we can’t end it in one year. So our new target is the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency,” he told reporters at the sidelines of New Year’s call at Camp Aguinaldo.
Duterte, who will enter his third year in office this 2019, will finish his six-year term in 2022.
Last September, Duterte said that the military would defeat the New People’s Army (NPA) by the second quarter of 2019.
“I think that if God is merciful, this would be over by about the second quarter of next year. Many are surrendering. The good thing is there are firearms,” he said at that time.
The NPA has been waging armed rebellion against the Philippine government for 50 years, the longest-running insurgency in Asia.
Lorenzana said the new deadline within three years was “attainable” given the localized peace talks and E-CLIP (Enhanced Cooperation Local Integration Program), a reintegration program for communist rebels.
There are still about 4,000 armed communist rebels across the country, but the defense chief estimates that there are 50,000 militia and underground movement.
“We also want the militia to surrender. Last year, there were 1,000 armed rebels out of 11,000 surrenderees. The rest are militia because they were bigger in numbers than those armed fighters,” he said.
The defense chief also remained open to peace negotiations as long as they will be held in the country.
“I will support the peace talks if it will be held in the Philippines and not outside the country,” Lorenzana said.
“We also have the ongoing localized peace talks. But Mr. (Jose Ma.) Sison wants to do it abroad with the intercession of a third country. The President said last year, ‘Come home. Let’s talk here.’ So we support the peace talks here,” he said. /je
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