AFP chief: Reds should work with military in new campaign plan

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) designed a new campaign plan, Development Support and Security Plan Kapayapaan or DSSP Kapayaan, which promises to be tough on terrorists but supportive of peace talks with communist insurgents and Muslim rebels. 

It is a highly anticipated document, particularly among communist rebels and observers of the peace negotiations under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. They're keen on how the military will adjust its operations to support the peace process with the group responsible for Asia's longest-running communist insurgency. 

Kapayapaan is the Filipino word for peace. 

Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año, who is notorious among communist guerrillas, said he expects them to now work with the military. (READ: Rebel hunter Año is new AFP chief)

"The leftists have nothing to worry about. In fact we expect them to cooperate with us so that we can work out the attainment of a permanent and lasting peace," Año said on Monday, January 9, on the sidelines of the annual New Year's Call held inside Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. 

The government and the guerrillas will resume talks in Rome this month, but they have yet to sign a bilateral ceasefire pact that hinges – as far as the rebels are concerned – on the release of the remaining political prisoners. What's holding now are the ceasefire declarations declared separately by the military and the rebels.

The military presented the new campaign plan to Duterte during a command conference in Malacañang on Friday, January 6, although a copy of the document has yet to be made public. 

The new campaign plan also sets the direction for the military to support police operations against illegal drugs. Año said the military will focus on the following goals:

Primacy of peace process

Año said the military will uphold the "primacy of the peace process" while it focuses its combat operations on ending the terror threats particularly from the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Maute Group.

"We did not only focus on the security aspect, but we also focused on how we're going to attain a peaceful settlement with other peace inclined armed groups such as the Communist Party of the Philippines, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Moro National Liberation Front," Año said. 

"We also focused on how we're going to defeat terrorist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf, Maute Group, and foreign terrorist groups" he added. 

DSSP Kapayapaan replaces the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan, which the military credits for significantly clearing 71 of the country's 76 provinces of the presence of the communist armed group New People's Army. The communists have blamed IPSP Bayanihan for alleged human rights violations by the military, however.

Año said the military will also continue patrols in the West Philippine Sea and modernize its hardware. He also welcomed warmer ties with China and Russia while committing to maintain relationships with the country's treaty ally, the US. 

"We are seeing how we are warming our relationship with other countries like China and Russia. We'll maintain our working relationship with the US. We can say that right now we are not facing external threat against our country," said Año. 

"We will take advantage of this so we can end the terrorist threat," he added. – Rappler.com