DAVAO City — Soldiers assigned in Marawi City might be deployed to areas in Mindanao beset by the communist-led insurgency now that military operations against the remnants of the Isis-inspired Maute Group are “winding down,” Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen, Rey Leonardo Guerrero said here on Tuesday.
Guerrero, speaking during the turnover of command at the Eastern Mindanao Command on Wednesday, noted that the New People’s Army is active in the boundaries shared by Davao City, Bukidnon, Agusan del Sur and North Cotabato.
He said the Armed Forces is forming eight new battalions that would be deployed in several parts of the country. Two battalions would be in Mindanao.
He said the Armed Forces earlier deployed the 88th Infantry Battalion in Bukidnon and 89th IB in Davao.
He said the focus of military operations in Mindanao would be Davao region and western Mindanao.
On the threat of terrorism, Guerrero said the military would continue the clearing operations in Marawi to capture the remnants of the Maute Group who had occupied the predominantly Muslim city and engaged government forces for five months.
“The mopping-up operations [in Marawi] are about to be completed. We are still doing the post-conflict assessment together with the other agencies. We continue to clear the area and recovering the cadavers and materials that were left,” he said.
Guerrero, who once served as Eastmincom chief, said the military would focus on areas in southwestern Mindanao and Basilan and Sulu.
Basilan and Sulu are the strongholds of the Abu Sayyaf whose leader Isnilon Hapilon, the so-called emir of the Isis in Southeast Asia, was killed along with Omar Maute in Marawi in Oct. 16.
During the turnover, Eastmincom commander Lt. General Benjamin Madrigal said they welcome efforts by the city government of Davao to initiate local peace talks with the NPA.
“The peace negotiation is an initiative of our political leaders. Of course, we welcome all efforts to resolve (armed conflicts) peacefully. This will depend on the direction of our national leaders and our political leaders,” said Madrigal who replaced acting commander Brig. Gen. Perfecto Rimando Jr..
He said the community must also actively participate in the local peace talks to ensure its success.
Guerrero also expressed to the initiative but maintained that the military would not lower down its guard against security threats.
Members of the Davao Peace Committee created by Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio convened for the first time last Oct. 24 in preparation for the possible holding of local peace talks.
But in a statement Thursday, the Communist Party said it is rejecting the local peace negotiations being pushed by Mayor Carpio.
The CPP said the local peace talks “will surely fail in its aim of dividing the revolutionary forces waging a nationwide people’s war. The Duterte regime is wasting time and the people’s money in setting-up these useless local peace committees which will go nowhere and achieve nothing.”
“These are mere rehashes of worn-out psywar surrender programs such as the “balik-baril program” and the Comprehensive Local Integration Program riding on the popular clamor for peace talks,” it said.
It said the CPP and NPA support the National Democratic Front “in its representation of all revolutionary forces in negotiations with the GRP with the aim of forging agreements to settle the outstanding socio-economic and political questions that compel the people to wage armed struggle.”
“By pushing for local peace talks and enticing the surrender of NPA fighters with silly incentives, Duterte reveals himself to have a very shallow appreciation of the profound social problems which are at the root of the raging civil war in the Philippines,” it added.
The only time that the NDF agreed to local peace talks was during the time of President Corazon Aquino. (antonio colina IV of mindanews)