Lorenzana: AFP taking 'whole-of-nation' approach vs terrorists, communists

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is taking the "whole-of-nation" approach in addressing internal security threats, specifically communist insurgency and terrorism to achieve the government's mission of attaining peace and development in the country, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana

However, the Defense Chief clarified that the military will not interfere with the functions of local government officials contrary to concerns raised by some sectors.

"We understand that the President did not mean the AFP would take part in the day-to-day management of the LGUs . Rather, the AFP, with its nationwide deployment, is in a position and an ideal partner of other line agencies and LGUs in the delivery of basic services, and in the implementation of development projects," Lorenzana explained.

The 51-year-old communist rebellion and the lingering threat of terrorism have been blamed by the government on the derailed peace and development in various conflict areas.

Lorenzana said the military has been taking steps to address these issues.

He mentioned the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in December, 2018, following the collapse of the peace talks between the national government and the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army - National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP).

The NTF-ELCAC's primary mission is to eradicate the threat of communist insurgency while delivering the most basic services to communities to prevent residents from being lured into joining armed groups.

It was established through Executive Order No. 70 which aims to "institutionalize the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace" in the countryside.

Lorenzana also said that some Army commanders are members of the Regional Peace and Development Councils in the communities.

"As such, they participate in the crafting of policies and programs to improve security and implement development programs," he said.

Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said the military is creating conditions where communist rebels will be encouraged to surrender to authorities and avail of government benefits intended to help them restart their lives.

This, he said, can be done through sustained intelligence operations, psychological operations and civil affairs. This, he said, is aside from the military's armed operations and provision of benefits through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

"While the AFP does combat operations to defeat the CTG and destroy its support system, relevant agencies charged with the construction of farm-to-market roads, bridges, school buildings, health centers, post-harvest facilities and those that create livelihood opportunities and the likes deliver their mandates," Arevalo noted.

In his 5th State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Duterte said the government needs to provide "interventions" in addressing internal security threats, one of which is the implementation of the Barangay Development Plan.

"This refers to a program where the Armed Forces would play a vital role in the one-nation approach. Everyone, every agency of the government, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, should participate," he said.