From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 27): AFP chief wants guerrilla bases as 'peace zones'
The chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is seeking to turn areas formerly used by the communist guerrillas as bases into peace zones where development can thrive and people's lives are improved.
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal said the plan needs an integral approach, and that the whole nation must participate as he conceded that peace and development initiatives cannot be achieved solely by the military.
"We should have the same dedication, sense of urgency, the same passion, parehong momentum para sabay sabay (the same momentum so that we all move together)," Madrigal said in an interview here Wednesday.
Madrigal said development efforts should not be confined on the areas affected by the communist insurgency, but also around neighboring areas to encourage New People's Army (NPA) community supporters to actively engage with the government's programs.
The AFP chief also underscored the role of the private sector in bringing development to areas whose economic development has been stunted by insurgency.
"Paano mo i-encourage ang mga tao sa conflict areas kung gobiyerno lang? (How are you going to encourage people in conflict areas if you solely rely on the government)," he said.
For instance, Madrigal cited the dire situation of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) whose ancestral lands the NPA has turned into guerilla bases. This, he said, has made the tribes more vulnerable not only to NPA atrocities but to its recruitment as well.
To respond to these challenges, Madrigal said the AFP will launch a national task force that will give flesh to the "whole-of-nation" approach by starting community-based development programs.
Meanwhile, the AFP chief lauded the military units in Mindanao for the series of mass surrender of NPA combatants and their community supporters.
In Davao Region alone, the Army's 10th Infantry Division (10ID) said it has scored 524 regular NPA surrenderers; 700 Militia ng Bayan--the NPA frontline militia organization; 256 Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad (SPL) or community-based supporters; and 6,242 underground mass organization members.
Madrigal assured the former NPA combatants and supporters "can lead a good life after abandoning the communist struggle."
However, the military official conceded that "we can only achieve complete victory if we can address all concerns in the conflict-affected areas."
"With President Rodrigo Duterte in the lead supported by the regional executive councils, the local government units, we can address the roots of insurgency," he added.