MANILA – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay has ordered all his commanders to totally dismantle all remaining New People's Army (NPA) guerrilla fronts as the communist terrorists have been seriously weakened by government offensives.
"All remaining communist guerrilla fronts shall be simultaneously addressed and defeated toward the end of 2021. I noticed a lot of these NPA units have been weakened so this is our target for all the Unified Commands," he said in a statement late Saturday.
Gapay also ordered all area commanders to set priority targets per quarter along with their task to expedite the clearing of identified focus areas to hasten the dismantling of remaining guerrilla fronts.
A total of 54 so-called guerrilla fronts remains with nine other regional armed groups which were already decimated and on the brink of collapse. This came after the successful dismantling of 22 communist fighting and propaganda units.
"Focused military operations shall be intensified in order to destroy the armed groups, taking advantage of our newly acquired game-changer assets," Gapay said.
In line with this, AFP units were tasked to develop innovative employment of joint operations supported by enhanced and modernized intelligence gathering.
To neutralize local terrorist groups, Gapay directed AFP units to further intensify focused military operations along with the conduct of "preventing and countering violent extremism" programs to avoid the radicalization and recruitment of vulnerable sectors and communities.
"We have significantly decimated these groups such that we could target to catch up on our goals toward the end of the first semester of this year," Gapay said.
In territorial defense, Gapay said the Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity remains secured and the country's strategic resources and critical infrastructures are protected.
"But we need to adjust to effectively address the growing challenges in the West Philippine Sea (WPS)," he added.
Gapay ordered both field units and AFP General Headquarters to review lines of operations, lines of efforts, and key tasks to ensure the military remains effective in responding to prevailing situations.
"Continue to find innovative ways in asserting our sovereignty over our territorial claims and exercising our sovereign rights in the WPS," he said.
He added the Northern Luzon Command and Western Command were designated as area task force chairs to rationalize the utilization of maritime patrol assets in coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and other maritime law enforcement agencies.
"I enjoin everyone to observe excellence and professionalism in the performance of our duties while living up to our core values of honor, service, and patriotism," Gapay said.
As this developed, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Debold Sinas on Sunday said 11 NPA communist terrorists and their affiliates surrendered to the police in Central Luzon last Saturday.
"We are keeping our doors open to enlightened members of the local communist terrorist movement who wish to return to the fold of the law and lead new lives with their families," he said.
Citing reports from Central Luzon PNP director Brig. Gen. Valeriano De Leon, Sinas said local authorities facilitated the voluntary surrender of the 11 communist fighters along with their firearms.
"We are now reaping the gains of local peace initiatives being pursued by the security sector in collaboration with local government units all over the country. We hope that other concerned sectors and other members of the community will channel their initiatives and support these peace endeavors of government so that we can all together achieve lasting peace for the country," Sinas said. (with Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)