MANILA, Philippines – The military on Thursday said it has successfully constricted the threat of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in 2009 and is on track to end the insurgency by 2010 as ordered by President Arroyo.
Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Victor Ibrado made the bold pronouncement in his speech at the 74th founding anniversary of the AFP at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
“Your AFP has successfully constricted the insurgents’ pipelines of support and have significantly reduced their strength and influence,” he said.
Ibrado said the number of NPA guerilla fronts is now down to 51 from a high of more than 100 guerilla fronts five years ago.
“From a high of 107 guerilla fronts in 2005, we have decreased them to just 51 and have steadily reduced their strength and firearms. Whether in Bicol, Samar or Zamboanga, their numbers are dwindling as result of our well-strategized campaign,” added Ibrado.
The Armed Forces’ chief said the threat of the NPA rebels in Marinduque and Bohol has been removed. He also said that businessmen in Romblon, Leyte and Misamis are no longer being extorted by the communist rebels. “These once threatened localities are now strongly denouncing their violent ways,” he said.
Ibrado said counter-insurgency operations in these areas have been turned over to the local peace and order council and to the police.
“As a result of our success, your Armed Forces began to turn over internal security functions in these areas to the local governments’ peace and order councils and the Philippine National Police,” said Ibrado.
Ibrado also told members of media that the NPA’s strength has been reduced to below 5,000 as of third quarter of 2009.
The military chief said the feat was achieved even though there were “distractions” to the AFP’s counter-insurgency role.
“Despite the distractions…we have continued to gain headway in fulfilling our 2010 deadline in defeating the insurgency menace,” said Ibrado.
Many military units were deployed for the rescue and relief operations especially during the devastation and floodings during weather disturbances Ondoy and Pepeng.
President Arroyo had said that the communist insurgency problem should be defeated “strategically” by the time her term ends after the 2010 elections in May.
“More than 100”
A statement of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Wednesday however seemed to debunk the claims of Ibrado.
On Wednesday, the CPP ordered a five-day ceasefire with the government during the holidays. The CPP statement said the truce was “in deference to the people’s holiday celebrations.”
It also said however that the holiday truce will allow its members and supporters “to gather peacefully in more than a hundred guerrilla fronts throughout the country for the celebration of the 41st anniversary of the CPP.”
The CPP was founded December 26, 1968.