The Civil Military Operations (CMO) of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) launched on Wednesday in the province the “Usapang Pangkapayapaan, Usapang Pangkaunlaran” or UP UP Palawan as an initiative to communicate to the public the national government’s target to end the communist armed conflict.
Lt. Col. Joel Jonson, secretariat officer of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), said UP UP Palawan is in support of Executive Order No. 70 which was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2018 as an anti-insurgency initiative to attain peace in the Philippines.
“Ang purpose nito is to institutionalize the whole-of-nation-approach. Ang ating mga sundalo at pulis ay dating ginagawa na kami lang in addressing the insurgency problem of our country. Ngayon, instead na military, it is more on civilian approach na. Ibig sabihin ang mga ahensya ng gobyerno ay nagtutulong-tulong para ma-address itong concern natin sa insurgency,” he said.
He explained that they are currently establishing NTF-ELCAC at the regional level to form concrete programs and solutions for the purpose.
Jonson said the peace forum drive hopes that both national and local government units will come together to eliminate the causes of the violence and the armed conflict with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
“Ito ang gagawin natin sa regional and sub-regional level. Sa ngayon ay nasa regional level na tayo, we are creating regional task forces,” Jonson said.
Assistant chief of air staff for CMO Col. Gerardo Zamudio Jr. also said the UP UP Palawan will help stress to residents that armed conflict is not the way to achieve long and lasting peace.
He said that during the Marcos era, the population of the NPA reached around 27,000. Today, this has gone down today to 3,000 but the conflict remains.
“Dapat mapaniwala natin sila na ang armadong pakikibaka na ‘yan ay walang patutunguhan ‘yan. ‘Yong panahon ng diktador na Marcos ang dami nila ay umabot more than 27,000 kumpara ngayon. Pero ang paglaban nila sa gobyerno ay hindi pa rin natatapos. Dapat malaman nila na noon nga na legitimate ang mga issue ay hindi sila nanalo, ngayon pa kaya? Kung saan 3,000 something nalang ang dami ninyo? Talaga bang gusto nila magpakamatay. Kaya sana masave natin ang buhay ng mga kapatid natin dahil walang saysay ang ginagawa nila,” Zamudio said.
He also said that most of the casualties are from the NPA side.
Zamudio said the government now is “more responsive” in meeting the needs of the people, making the armed struggle already irrelevant.
“We have a government that is more responsive and we need to let the public know that the armed struggle will lead us nowhere. It is time that we need to promote messages of peace and save the lives of students, who are at risk of recruitment by the NPA,” said Zamudio.
The visit in Puerto Princesa City was the fifth leg of the nationwide campaign of UP UP. It is targeting to visit six major PAF bases throughout the country.
In Palawan, six municipalities have so far declared the CPP-NPA-NDF as persona non grata: Brooke’s Point, Taytay, Araceli, Dumaran, Aborlan, and Quezon.
Western Command (WESCOM) commander Vice Admiral Rene Medina previously said that the whole-of-nation-approach is “certainly making an impact in the community”.
Just recently, two members of the NPA surrendered to the Marine Battalion Landing Team-4, identified as “Ka Ondo” and “Ka Maryan”.
“This is a clear indication of their unwillingness to continue the armed struggle. [Also] the initiative of the local government units is a sign that they really want a lasting peace,” Medina said.