MANILA -- The ongoing implementation of martial law in Mindanao has brought peace and many other benefits to the island, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. said Friday.
"Peace in Mindanao has never been closer than in the times that martial law is in place. Despite the opposition from some groups, we have been clear from the very beginning of our intentions and our actions so far have proven them wrong," Galvez said in a press conference in AFP national headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Galvez also said the military has received positive feedback from various stakeholders regarding the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.
"We have joined rounds of consultation with the primary stakeholders in the peace, security, and development in Mindanao and we have received overwhelming positive feedback, not only on our efficient implementation of martial law, but also its impact to security, local economy, and governance and well-being of local communities," the AFP chief added.
And while these assessments are partial, as he and other ranking military officials have yet to visit other areas in Mindanao, Galvez said he is happy about the significant favorable results so far.
"Martial law has led to increased tourist and economic activity in Mindanao, especially in areas previously thought of as inaccessible to visitors from Luzon and Visayas. The improved security situation is so inviting that it is no longer unusual to find tourists exploring Bongao, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Davao, Zamboanga City, or island hopping in Jolo, Sulu. The development created more jobs and empowered residents to become active players in the peace and security of their communities," he noted.
And with the help of local government units, an unprecedented number of loose firearms have been confiscated or surrendered to the government, with 5,685 loose firearms recovered in Mindanao alone.
"Movements of known terrorist groups such as the New People’s Army, Maute Group, and the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) have also been constricted. In Eastern Mindanao alone, 11,333 CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines) members and supporters have been given an opportunity to experience a more peaceful and productive way of life," the AFP chief added.
These individuals are joined by over 300 members of local terrorist groups, 572 of which are ASG, who chose to abandon their illegal activities in exchange for reformation and reintegration, he said.
"By next year, as the trend is sustained, we can make these terrorists irrelevant," Galvez stressed.
He said the number of recipients of the Seal of Good Governance has increased from six in 2016, 20 for 2017, and 23 for 2018 in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
This is inspite of the more stringent criteria, which have increased from four to seven lines of efforts.
The economic performance of the ARMM also increased from 4.3 to 7.3 GDP. In particular, Zamboanga, which ranked 102nd in 2017 in terms of economic standing, jumped to the rank of 41 in 2018.
"Despite these developments, we are aware that our job is far from over. We must capitalize on these gains moving forward. The year 2018 has been very productive and beneficial for the people of Mindanao. We thank Mindanaoans for their trust and confidence on our soldiers, who to this day continue to risk their life in search for just and lasting peace in the Land of Promise," Galvez added.
Earlier, Malacañang said it would depend on the recommendation of the AFP on whether or not martial law will be extended after the end of the year.
Martial law in Mindanao was declared on May 23, 2017 following attacks launched by the Maute Group in Marawi City.
The House of Representatives, in a special joint session in July last year, granted the extension of martial law until Dec. 31, 2017 at the President's request.
The Senate and House of Representatives, convening in a joint session early December, later granted the Chief Executive's request for the extension of martial law and the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for a period of one year from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018.
"By next year, we aspire to bring you closer to the peace that you have always dreamt of. But we still need your help, your support, and your trust. We are all witnesses to the changes ushered in by martial law and we know we can do more. Let us continue to make our visions a reality," the AFP chief said. (PNA)