COMMUNIST insurgency, dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and terrorism in southern Mindanao are among the top security challenges the country is facing, according to Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Speaking before the general membership meeting of the Consular Corps of the Philippines (CCP) at the Makati Shangri-La hotel on Wednesday, Lorenzana said the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has been working hard to deal with these problems.
The CCP is a fellowship of career-professional and honorary consuls of foreign countries in the Philippines whose objective is to foster greater understanding, friendship, corporate social responsibility and cooperation among their counterparts in the Philippines.
It is a member of the World Federation of Consuls.
According to Lorenzana, he was often asked why the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA) are still in existence when most of the rabid communists in the world such as China and Vietnam have already changed and are more capitalistic now than many capitalist countries.
“We do not know the answer but they continue to do a lot of damage to the countryside, to the economy, to the peace and order by their extortion, which they call revolutionary taxation but we call it simple extortion,” he said.
The DND chief branded the CPP-NPA “communist terrorists.”
“I call them terrorists because what is the difference [between them and]the Abu Sayyaf [Group]? They both intimidate people to get money. They keep burning equipment of companies, of firms that do not give money that they are asking for [and]they are also into kidnapping of local officials, barangay [village]officials, soldiers and policemen,” he said.
Depsite these atrocities, Lorenzana added, the government has been trying to find a solution to the communist insurgency, citing the resumption of peace talks with the communist leaders in Oslo, Norway, “in a couple of days.”
On a unilateral ceasefire recently offered by the CPP, President Duterte said he wants a “bilateral” truce instead, according to the Defense secretary.
On the dispute in the South China Sea, Lorenzana recalled that on July 12, 2016 when a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on a memorial filed before it by Manila was announced, he being a former military man told a meeting of the Duterte Cabinet to send the Philippine Navy to the contested waters to drive away the Chinese from there.
He said his idea was rejected by the President, who cautioned them against being “arrogant” with the victory against Beijing before the arbitral court.
On the issue of terrorism, Lorenzana said what he fears is that terrorists could bring the mayhem to Manila and other heavily populated areas in the country.
“If there is one subject matter that keeps me awake at night, it is this one [terrorism],” he added.
Nevertheless, he reiterated the military’s aim to crush the Abu Sayyaf and Maute terrorist groups in six months to one year to stop their kidnappings and terroristic activities in Mindanao.
Both groups are linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS.