By Aaron Recuenco
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Saturday that they have no plan to employ purely military solution in ending communist insurgency in the country despite the bogging down of the peace talks marked by harsh exchanges between President Rodrigo Duterte and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison.
This is the reason, according to Lorenzana, why they have been aggressively pushing for the localized peace talks since the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines have stalled last year.
“Working closely with local government units, we are actively pursuing local peace initiatives such [as] localized peace talks, community support and development, and promotion of good governance, as well as the implementation of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Programs or E-CLIP which helps former rebels start their lives anew by providing financial, livelihood, and educational assistance, psychosocial support, and housing,” said Lorenzana.
The Defense Chief said even President Duterte is not in favor of using the government force alone to end communist insurgency, the recent pronouncement was the Chief Executive quoted saying that he does not want bombing rebel camps.
“The Department of National Defense fully supports the President’s decision not to employ a purely military solution in ending the communist insurgency in the country,” said Lorenzana.
Earlier, President Duterte was quoted saying that he is still open to peace talks with the communist rebels. His statement was welcomed by Sison, saying peace talks have always been the NDF’s priority.
Lorenzana, for his part, said that they are more interested in encouraging communist rebels back in government folds, saying most of them were successfully recruited by the NPA due to poverty.
Poverty alleviation, according to him, is one of the major programs for rebel returnees.
“While focused military actions will weaken their armed component, it is the promise of a better life for their families that drives their members to return to civil society and the fold of the law,” said Lorenzana.
The communist rebels have been waging almost five decades of armed struggle against the government. The NPA’s strength is reportedly at more than 4,000 across the country.
The military said there were more than 800 communist rebels who have already surrendered to the government last year.
The government, on the other hand, is planning t allocate more than P450 million for the rebel integration program.