Esperon: AFP to wipe out NPA rebels in next 3 years
The Philippine Star 11/26/2006
ZAMBOANGA CITY — The military announced an intensified offensive against communist rebels in the country, vowing to wipe out the insurgency over the next three years, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.
Esperon said the strength of the New People’s Army (NPA) was drastically reduced, thanks to the AFP’s operational plan dubbed "Bantay Laya,’’ a five-year military campaign set to end this year.
He said the AFP is introducing another campaign code-named "Kaunlaran,’’ which aims to wipe out the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF).
"This coming year, expect more intensified and vigorous operations that we are launching to wipe out the communist terrorists in the country," Esperon said.
Esperon flew to Jolo Friday to assess the military offensive against terrorists leaders.
The military said the number of NPA rebels has been reduced from 12,000 to 7,000 — most of whom are in hiding across the country.
Esperon said the new AFP campaign will be implemented over a three-year period or up to the end of President Arroyo’s term in 2010.
He said "Oplan Kaunlaran’’ will focus on liberating villages in the countryside from poverty and illiteracy — the two social problems that fuel the communist insurgency.
Esperon said that while the military will focus on its offensive against the NPA, heavy civil-military operations (CMO) and engineering works will be implemented in different villages where communist rebels have considerable influence.
The CMO projects include the construction of farm-to-market roads, small projects for livelihood support, and literacy programs.
Meanwhile, soldiers killed at least two communist guerrillas in a clash yesterday in Quezon province, an army commander said.
Army soldiers encountered about 30 NPA guerrillas preparing to escape by sea in San Narciso town in Quezon province following a week-long pursuit by government forces, said Lt. Col. Armand Bustillos, commander of the 74th Infantry Battalion.
He said a laptop computer was recovered from one of the slain guerrillas, indicating that he was a senior rebel leader.
He said a laptop computer was recovered from one of the slain guerrillas, indicating that he was a senior rebel leader. — Roel Pareño, AP