The national government has tasked law enforcers in Panay to put an end to the New People’s Army (NPA) in 2018.
Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Eduardo Año, a former AFP chief of staff, issued the mission amid attacks by the rebel group in Panay Island.
Año was in Iloilo on Nov. 28, 2017 to visit the wake of Police Officer 1 (PO1) Joefel Odon of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB) who died in an ambush in Maasin town, Iloilo four days ago.
“Malaking dagok sa atin ang nangyaring ‘yan but it will serve as a booster for us to further intensify our operations,” he added.
Año urged all sectors of society to help in the fight against the NPA.
He said one of the battalions under the 3rd Infantry Division currently assigned in Mindanao will be recalled to Panay.
The 3ID based in Camp Peralta, Jamindan, Capiz has three infantry battalions in Mindanao – the 82nd IB, the 15th IB, and the 11th IB. The units were sent to help quell the Maute group in Marawi City.
“After Marawi, the plan is to neutralize the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters) in Maguindanao and the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Marawi. Ibang tropa naman ‘yun. So, unti-unti ng ibabalik sa Visayas at Luzon yung mga ibang tropa,” Año said.
The former AFP chief said they also plan to activate additional battalions in Panay.
Año said he trusts the capability of Brigadier General Pio Diñoso and Chief Superintendent Cesar Hawthorne Binag to deliver.
Diñoso is the commander of the Philippine Army’s 301st Infantry Brigade while Binag heads the Western Visayas police force.
For the PNP, it has tasked the RMFB to run after the NPAs and the Special Action Force (SAF) for terrorist groups.
Meanwhile, Diñoso acknowledged on the need to flush out the NPA by next year’s
“I know our government will help us. They would provide us with additional units, equipment, and resources to do this task,” he added.
Diñoso also believed that they have the support of the public, whom he claimed had seen enough of the NPA’s terroristic acts.
“If there are people who support them, it’s because of fear,” he added.
Diñoso said they would still implement the “Whole-of- Nation Approach” in defeating the NPA.
The approach is based on the recognition that the AFP cannot single-handedly solve the internal peace and security concerns of the country.
He cited that the victory of the Philippine Army in its encounters in Barangay Trangka, Maasin on Nov. 20 and I’m Cuartero, Capiz on Nov. 7 is a manifestation that they have the support of the community.
Recently, Diñoso pegged there are 150-180 NPA armed combatants in Panay Island.
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