NPA 'dead' by next year – Esperon
By Dempsey Reyes / The Manila Times
AT the rate New People's Army (NPA) members are surrendering, the rebel group's "reign of terror" will end before President Rodrigo Duterte steps down next year, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) said.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., the vice chairman of the task force, is confident that the communist terrorist group will be crushed next year.
"[The President] wants to finish the NPA by July 2022. In my own estimate, the NPA's strength is around 3,500, for me, that's already down," he said at the Kapihan sa Ilocos on Tuesday.
"Mabilis na ang pagbaba n'yan dahil ang daming nagsu-surrender (Their number will diminish because so many are surrendering)," he added.
"Paspasan ito. Marami ng mabubuwag; marami na ang magsusurender (This is going to go down fast. Many [NPA units] will be dismantled; many will surrender)," Esperon, also the national security adviser, said.
He agreed with Duterte's comment on insurgency during his final State of the Nation Address on Monday that the problem can only be solved through a "whole of nation approach."
Saying that the insurgency problem is not just a military concern, the President said that the NTF-Elcac "made strides in addressing the root causes of this conflict by empowering our kababayans who have been used by the communist forces in many decades."
Among the programs initiated by the NTF-Elcac was the Barangay Development Program, which provides funds to communities affected by the insurgency to build roads, schools, and other community projects.
"Some lawmakers said we were spending too much with the Barangay Development Program. What we are doing is that we are providing P20 million to each village affected by insurgency," Esperon said, adding that 822 villages in Mindanao will benefit from the program.
In the next phase, he said that 2,380 villages will also receive aid.