THE leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed that the communist New People’s Army (NPA) has failed in its plan to regain back its Marcos-era strength of 25,000 fighters through massive recruitment process, particularly among the youth.
AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Monday said that the failure of the NPA to meet its target force was largely due to the people’s rejection of violence and in part to the sustained implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan, the government’s new anti-insurgency strategy.
“Their five-year plan ended in 2013, their objective is 25,000 [fighters], what have they achieved? They have not achieved anything,” he said.
“It simply means that the Filipinos, the masses, have rejected violence or armed struggle, I hope they see the writing on the wall that the Filipino people desires peace [and]prosperity,” he added.
According to Bautista, NPAs have been effectively neutralized in many areas where they used to operate and were now concentrated in the Mindanao region.
Starting this year, he added, the AFP would start its gradual transition toward territorial defense and would turn over the maintenance of peace and security in insurgency-free declared areas to the police and the local governments.
Maj. Gen. Pio Catapang, chief, Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) claimed that the NPA is a spent force and have no more capability to reverse the trend of the country becoming peaceful and ready for further development.
Asked if the NPA strength is less than 4,000, Catapang said: “I’d like to believe that the NPA capability is very much reduced, largely because the Filipinos have rejected conflicts.”
Catapang pointed out that the people have already suffered 45 years of conflict with the NPAs and it would be too much of a burden if it would further continue.
He expressed confidence that the AFP will achieve its target under the IPSP Bayanihan to make the NPA “irrelevant” by 2016.
Military records showed that 25 of the 81provinces nationwide had already been declared insurgency-free since it implemented the IPSP Bayanihan.
It is also claimed that NPA strength has dwindled to 4,043, from a peak of 24,430 during the 80s.
But the NPA, through the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), counted that it has grown in strength thus forcing the AFP to stretch its forces to the limit, making the military incapable of launching sustained simultaneous attacks.