Arroyo OKs military plan to crush insurgency, terrorism
Quezon City (22 December) -- PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has approved the second phase of the military's master plan to finish off communist insurgency and Islamic extremism, Military Chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Thursday.
Esperon said Bantay Laya 2 aims to "defeat" the communist New People's Army (NPA) at the end of Arroyo's term in 2010, "destroy" the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf at the "soonest," and "contain" the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
"The AFP now stands at the crossroads. We are ready to submit to the commander-in-chief, Oplan Bantay Laya 2," Esperon said in a speech during the 71st founding anniversary celebration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Camp Aguinaldo.
In a separate speech, Arroyo said that as concurrent defense secretary, she has drafted a medium-term mission for each branch of service in the AFP.
"Each major service shall organize, train, equip, deploy, and sustain its forces to achieve a strategic defeat of the communist terrorist movement by 2010, destroy the Abu Sayyaf, and other terrorist groups, and contain the secessionist groups," she said.
The predecessor of the new battle plan, the five-year Oplan Bantay Laya 1, will finish at the end of this year.
Esperon said during the five-year implementation of Bantay Laya 1, the strength of the NPA was brought down to 7,100 from 12,000.
The number of NPA-infested villages has also started to decline and is currently at 2,115 after peaking at 12,510 in December 2004, the military chief said.
In 2006, an NPA regional secretary was killed while 13 other guerilla front secretaries were either killed, captured, or surrendered, he said.
"If we cannot call that a success against the NPA, certainly, we would like to call that a momentum, a lot of momentum," he said.
Esperon said troops "are not letting up" against the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, whose chieftain, Kahadaffy Janjalani and two Jemaah Islamiyah explosives experts, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, are the subjects of a five-month old manhunt in Sulu province.
"We hope to corner them soon," the military chief said.
He said the military will continue to throw its "all out support" to peace negotiations between the government and the MILF, the largest Muslim secessionist group in the country.
Peace talks bogged down several months ago over the ancestral domain issue. (PIA) [top]