THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, on Tuesday claimed that the communist New People’s Army (NPA) is fast becoming a spent force and would be fully neutralized by 2015.
Catapang said his target is to declare the entire country peaceful and ready for development before his retirement next year.
His timetable precedes by a year that of his predecessor, retired military chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, to end the Maoist insurgency by the end of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s term in 2016.
Even with its small number, Catapang said, the NPA has chosen to remain active to survive through bombings, destruction of equipment and extortion.
He, however, pointed out that reports about the activities of the rebels were rather sensationalized and did not really picture the real situation.
“I think we have the momentum to declare the country next year by the time I retire as peaceful and ready for development,” Catapang said.
He noted that the NPA fighters now operate in smaller number, which indicates that they number fewer than the 4,000 active guerrillas earlier reported by the military.
“… I think they are down to 2,000 active, the non-active is another 2,000, that’s why it’s 4,000,” the AFP chief explained.
The AFP claims that the NPA has failed on its five-year plan that ended last year to regain back its Marcos-era strength of 25,000 fighters through massive recruitment process, particularly among the youth.