‘We can’t end insurgency this year’
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Tuesday admitted that it was impossible to end the communist insurgency this year despite plans by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
“We cannot do it (end insurgency) this year because that is a big problem,” Lorenzana said on the sidelines of Tuesday’s joint Department of National Defense-AFP new year’s call in Camp Aguinaldo, pointing 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.
The AFP chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., in his speech at the event, told defense and military officials: “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 this could be attained by “unifying our efforts at various levels of government with the end view of developing conflict-resilient communities.”
Madrigal was apparently referring to the national task force to end the communist insurgency, which Mr. Duterte heads.
Even as Lorenzana disputed the feasibility of the AFP’s 2019 target, he assured the public that it was “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 convince droves of New People’s Army (NPA) fighters to surrender.
The defense secretary placed the current NPA strength at approximately 4,000 regular members, while its militia and underground movement, at some 50,000 members.
Not yet attainable
“We have to move [the 2019 deadline] because it is not yet attainable. There are still too many things to handle,” Lorenzana said.
As to the possible revival of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-NPA, Lorenzana said he would support it as long as negotiations were held in the Philippines and there were localized peace talks that were already working.
He addressed CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison in Filipino, saying, “Mr. Sison, if you want the peace process, as the President said, let’s talk here in the Philippines, not in Norway.”
Lorenzana also asked for sincerity from the communist rebels 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.
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