From a peak of 25,600 in 1986, NPA fighters down to about 4,000 today – AFP (Feature)

March 28, 2012 12:59 am 

By Ben Cal

MANILA, March 27 — From a formidable fighting force of 25,600 in 1986, the number of New People’s Army (NPA) rebel fighters was down to about 4,000 at the end of February 2012 as the military reported the clearing of 23 provinces formerly infested by communist rebels.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) released this new statistics as the NPA, Asia’s longest-running insurgency, will mark its 43rd anniversary on March 29.

Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr., AFP spokesman, identified the 23 provinces cleared of rebel activities as Aklan, Apayao, Ifugao, Kalinga, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Biliran, Cebu, Bohol, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, South Cotabato, La Union, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Cavite, Marinduque, Romblon, Guimaras, Siquijor, and Northern and Southern Leyte.

Bohol was the first province freed by the AFP from NPA influence as early as 2009 as the military intensified its combat and civil-military operations over the years.

Burgos said that despite suffering defeat after defeat and steadily losing their mass base support, “the NPAs would like to project that they are still a force to reckon with by attacking soft targets, capitalizing on private establishments and companies to extort money and harassing remote Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) detachments.

It may be recalled that the NPA fighting force reached 25,600 at the end of 1986, prompting the AFP to move quickly to contain the communist threat, launching various anti-insurgency strategies, the latest of which is the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan.”

“The AFP sees that the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) leadership has already felt the impact of the IPSP throughout the country,” Burgos said.

The IPSP “Bayanihan” is designed to win the war with less military offensive but more on economic development and livelihood programs for rebels and their mass base supporters who would return to the fold of the law.

Burgos said the AFP has implemented the IPSP program steadily and successfully.

“The flow of their (NPA) supplies from the mass bases going to their traditional lairs was significantly affected by the military’s intensified Internal Security Operations (ISO) through the Peace and Development Teams,” he added.

Burgos said that “although this may lead NPA rebels to conduct more extortion activities targeting innocent civilians and private companies/establishments for financial support, the AFP will not take it hands down.”

He said Aklan was the latest province to be freed from NPA influence. Twenty-two other provinces had been freed from the clutches of communist insurgency.

In fact, the local government of Aklan passed a resolution on Oct. 14, 2011 declaring the province free of NPA influence after the AFP implemented its IPSP “Bayanihan” strategy, he said.

The threats posed by the insurgents in the province had been addressed as manifested by the negative occurrence of violent incidents attributed to them for the past four years.

With this, no barangay in the province is classified as insurgent-affected, Burgos said.

True to the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan’s people-centered and whole of nation approach, the uninterrupted peace and security in the province of Aklan has paved the way for infrastructure and other development projects to succeed, he added.

At the same time, Gen. Jessie Dellosa, AFP chief, said: “This is yet another significant gain for our internal security operations which directly benefits our citizenry. This of course will not be possible without their help and the close coordination of our fellow security forces, specifically the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the local government units’ Security and Peace and Coordinating Centers,”

“We assure that the AFP as protector of peace and stability will continue to exhaust all its efforts to successfully defeat the enemy of the state and persist on implementing the whole-of-nation and people-centered approach inculcated within our IPSP Bayanihan. We encourage all of the stakeholders, specially the citizens, to help us achieve our goals and together win the peace,” Dellosa said. (PNA) scs/RBC/utb

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