CAMP MACARIO PERALTA, Capiz – The Armed Forces of the Philippines may enhance its civil-military work, under its new six-year campaign plan, but will not lessen military operations against armed groups, Maj. Gen. Vicente Porto said yesterday.
Under the new internal peace and security plan dubbed “Oplan Bayanihan”, Porto said yesterday, government agencies, and local government units, have been ordered by President Benigno Aquino III to lead the development of areas cleared by the military of armed insurgents.
Unlike the former six-year Oplan Bantay Laya campaign that focused on defeating enemies of the state through military operations, Oplan Bayanihan, where the whole nation has been involved by President Aquino, is a “people-centered approach” to address the four-decade insurgency problem, Porto said.
He debunked claims that Oplan Bantay Laya was a total failure, saying it reduced the armed strength of NPA from 12,000 six years ago to 4,700 last year.
Some military commanders , however, said that while they were able to clear numerous insurgency-affected barangays in Negros and Panay islands in previous years, the development of those areas did not push through, making their campaign a merry-go-round, as rebels again occupy the places they vacated.
The provinces of Negros Oriental and Aklan have been identified by the AFP Central Command as the “focus areas” of the 3rd Infantry Division in 2011, for its internal security campaign.
Porto, however, said that the intensity of combat operations in other areas will remain the same.
The Communist Party of the Philippines, the political wing of the NPA dismissed Oplan Bayanihan as a recycled version of the Oplan Bantay Laya of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In Negros island, rebel spokesman Ka Marco announced plans to expand their controlled and influenced areas and bring about a stalemate with government forces in five years.
Porto, however, said Oplan Bantay Laya did not fail in Negros and Panay, with the level of insurgency problem continuously going down.
Porto also said Oplan Bayanihan also gives emphasis on respect for human rights, as the military had been accused of engaging in extra-judicial killings and human rights offices have been created in AFP’s battalion and brigade-level units.
Government and National Democratic Front negotiators are set to hold informal talks in Norway this month, before formal negotiations resume next month.
In a recent clandestine press conference, Ka Marco said that while they welcome the resumption of peace talks, they have little hope that it will lead to the resolution of the continuing conflict and address the roots of war.
“We have no illusions that the hopes of the masses will be realized through peace talks,” he said. * GPB