MANILA, Philippines - The communist New People’s Army (NPA) would become irrelevant if it refuses to talk peace with the government, the military said yesterday.
Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said the influence of the rebel group is waning because of the government’s development programs.
“There is no way out but to talk peace with our government,” Kakilala said.
“If they won’t talk peace, they will really be irrelevant because development will come in,” he added.
Kakilala made the statement on the same day the NPA commemorated its 46th anniversary. The military has been placed on red alert since Saturday as it expects the NPA to commemorate the anniversary by staging attacks.
PNP on alert
The Philippine National Police (PNP) was also placed on alert for possible attacks from the NPA in the countryside to commemorate its anniversary.
Kakilala said the government projects would address the issues raised in the countryside and would discourage residents from joining the rebels.
“They are running out of cadres already,” the military spokesman said.
This is not the first time the military claimed that the communist insurgency in the country is weakening.
Previous administrations have launched internal security plans like Lambat Bitag and Bantay Laya but the rebellion persisted.
The military’s current security plan Bayanihan seeks to roll out development projects designed to address the roots of insurgency like poverty and lack of access to basic services.
The Bayanihan campaign plan will end in 2016 but military data showed the NPA still has 3,200 fighters as of the end of 2014.
When asked when he thinks will the downfall of the NPA be, Kakilala said it would take several years.
“Our development has not yet totally trickled down in our country,” he said.
“But we also foresee that the CPP-NPA-NDF would be returning to the negotiating table as an alternative strategy to be relevant,” Kakilala said, referring to the communist umbrella group Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front.
CPP-NPA-NDF spokesman Jorge Madlos, on the other hand, said the continuing political and economic crisis as well as the corruption in government will drive more Filipinos to join the NPA in the coming years.
Peace talks with NDF, the negotiating panel of the communists, hit an impasse in 2013 after the rebels demanded the release of their comrades who are facing criminal cases.
NDF claimed the jailed rebel leaders were peace consultants and should be immune from arrest. The arrest of peace consultants is prohibited under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees signed by the government and the NDF.
Government negotiators, however, maintained the NDF’s claim cannot be verified because some of the jailed rebels are using aliases. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Ben Serrano