The Philippines’ number one soldier, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, made a fearless forecast on Wednesday to wipe out the 45-year-old communist insurgency before he retired from the service in 2015.
“My target is to declare the entire country peaceful and ready for development before I step down,” the armed forces chief of staff said, preempting by one one year the forecast of the Aquino Administration to solve the insurgency before the end of the president’s term in 2016.
“I think we have the momentum to declare the country peaceful and ready for development next year,” he said.
Catapang was former commander of the Northern Luzon Command, who claimed he licked the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the province of Pampanga. He promised to rid northern Luzon of NPA influence but encounters between troops and rebels continued.
Estimates of rebel strength in the countryside vary from 2,000 to 4,000 guerrillas under arms. The guerrillas are highly mobile and they move in small groups.
Catapang said he believed the actual NPA strength was 2,000 active and another 2,000 inactive, which added up to a total of 4,000 men.
“When I go around, I read (intelligence) reports and the usual sightings were 20 men. When I add them up, they are just hundreds. That’s why I’m asking the intelligence (community) to re-assess the situation,” he said.
Catapang said the NPA remained active in some regions and they survive through extortion activities, making bomb attacks and putting on fire equipment of companies that refused to heed their demands. http://manilastandardtoday.com