President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night met with key officials of the government in Malacañang in a bid to strengthen the administration’s efforts to combat the communist insurgency and other armed conflicts.
President Duterte convened the meeting of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, Cabinet members and the security sector to discuss the continuing anti-insurgency campaign.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the meeting served as a platform for the President “to provide guidance on strengthening convergence efforts among all instrumentalities of the government.”
The President had ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to end the local communist insurgency.
The President also said he will arm former rebels with high-end guns and tanks if members of the Communist Party of the Philippines “really want trouble.”
Last year, Duterte signed Executive Order 70 to institutionalize the whole-of-nation approach in dealing with the communists through a national task force.
A whole-of-nation approach refers to the delivery of basic services and social development, societal inclusivity, and active participation of all sectors to achieve peace.
“In his ongoing directive to enhance existing mechanisms of good governance, the President had repeatedly called on members of his administration to address the economic and security concerns in conflict-prone and conflict-affected areas,” Esperon said.
“The President directed his government to address the causes of insurgency through the efficient and effective delivery of basic services, justice, and infrastructure development,” Esperon added.
Last Oct. 31, police and military personnel have conducted simultaneous joint operations in offices of activist groups alleged to be fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing New People’s Army.
The authorities raided the offices of the Kilusang Mayo Uno, Gabriela Negros Center, and the Negros Federation of Sugar Workers. The raids were later was condemned by some groups such as the International Trade Union Confederation.
“Under the cover of being tough on crime, this government is targeting human and trade union rights defenders as part of a deliberate political strategy that relies on the suppression of people’s rights and freedoms,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.
In 2017, Duterte terminated peace talks with the communist rebels following continued attacks against military troops.
The CPP-NPA has been tagged as a terror group by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Lorenzana and his American counterpart, Mark Esper, are scheduled to meet in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City to discuss issues of mutual concern today (Tuesday).
DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the matter on the West Philippine Sea is part of the agenda of the meeting between the two defense chiefs.
“Most likely kasi kung (because as for) security issues, (that is) always part of the agenda,” he said in an interview with reporters Sunday.
Other topics that will be discussed are terrorism and US-Philippine defense relations, Andolong said.
The meeting between Lorenzana and Esper is expected to take place around 1 p.m. on Tuesday at the DND main building.
Esper left the US last week to attend the 51st US-Republic of Korea Security Consultative Meeting before heading towards Thailand to participate in the ASEAN-Defense Minister Meeting Plus.
After his visit to the Philippines, Esper will proceed to Vietnam to discuss the regional security environment and how to boost further the defense relations between the two countries. With PNA