CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Misamis Oriental, Philippines — The government’s goal is to make the communist insurgency irrelevant by 2022, just before President Rodrigo Duterte bows out of office, the country’s top security official said.
“We are tempted to set a self-imposed deadline to us, which would be naturally 2022 because that’s the end of the term of the President,” National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon told reporters.
In three years time, the communist rebels would have suffered massive military losses that they would no longer be able to launch attacks and cause trouble to the country, Esperon said.
“There may be a few stragglers left but by that time, they would just be doing banditry and the Philippines would have been able to fly economically,” Esperon added.
On Thursday, Esperon spoke before a regional summit of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict that gathered concerned Cabinet and security officials, local chief executives and tribal leaders from all over Mindanao.
Esperon said the summit was convened to learn from the successes and best practices of other regions in fighting communist insurgency.
But Esperon said there were many challenges that could hinder the government’s effort to achieve its target to weaken the communist guerrillas’ fighting strength.
Civilians key to solution
Esperon cited the consistency in the investment of resources needed to kick-start infrastructure projects and the delivery of basic services to the people in the countryside.
He noted that the war waged by communist rebels was most felt in Mindanao.
But Esperon said the growth and progress of Mindanao’s regions, particularly Caraga and northern Mindanao would make the communist rebellion irrelevant.
Esperon, however, said that if the military was left alone to fight communist rebels, the insurgency problem would not be solved soonest.
“We cannot defeat the communists by the efforts of the military and the police alone. We need the civilian sector,” said Esperon, a former chief of the country’s Armed Forces.
“You [civilians] have the key to the solution of the communist problem not only in Mindanao but in the entire Philippines,” Esperon added.
He emphasized the need to plan for “systematic, harmonized convergence of efforts” and to transform strategy from military-driven operations to civilian-led operations.
But the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said the government’s effort to wipe out the insurgency was creating conditions ripe for the recruitment of more guerrillas.
In a statement, the CPP said the government’s ongoing anti-insurgency campaign has pushed “more and more people to join or support the revolutionary underground and the armed struggle.”
It said the President and the defense and security establishments under him “are succeeding only in inciting more resistance in their overzealous drive to tag all opposition as communists, communist recruiters, sympathizers or collaborators.”
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