(PNA file photo) 

MANILA – As the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) intensifies its operations against the communist terrorist groups to secure the May elections, AFP Chief, Gen. Andres Centino, has urged all remaining rebels to surrender and avail of the government's Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) so that they can live peaceful lives with their families and loved ones.

The AFP chief made this appeal following the death of two New People's Army (NPA) terrorists during an encounter with the 36th Infantry Battalion in Lanuza, Surigao Del Sur last April 29.

"We are saddened by (the lives) wasted because of the senseless armed revolution of the communist NPA terrorists,” he said in a statement late Tuesday.

Centino also renewed his call on other members of the terrorist group to surrender now while they still have a chance. He added the government’s E-CLIP is designed to provide support to NPA rebels who wish to abandon the communist movement and return to their families.

A 36th Infantry Battalion soldier was wounded in the five-minute clash while the bodies of the two slain NPAs were recovered along with their weapons, a 5.56mm assault M-16 rifle and a .45- caliber pistol.

Almost PHP500 million worth of cash assistance has been given to the former rebels (FRs) under E-CLIP, an official of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) earlier said.

Navy Captain Ferdinand Buscato, executive director of Task Force Balik-Loob and representative of E-CLIP and Amnesty Clusters of NTF-ELCAC, said a total of 20,579 FRs have surrendered to the government from July 2016 to November 2021.

Buscato said since the creation of NTF-ELCAC through Executive Order No. 80 in 2018, a total of 3,751 FRs have been given livelihood assistance worth PHP50,000 each (PHP187.2 million) while 6,171 received immediate assistance amounting to PHP15,000 each (PHP92.46 million).

He said the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has also extended reintegration assistance worth PHP96.6 million and firearms remuneration worth PHP109 million to former members of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“[That’s] for a total of halos kalahating bilyon na po ang binayad ng DILG para po sa ating mga former rebels (almost half a billion [pesos] were given by the DILG for our former rebels),” Buscato said.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the National Democratic Front as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and separate part” of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973. (PNA)