News Release

PH to shift to external defense within PBBM’s term after ending communist rebellion — NSC

The government expects to shift its focus to external defense within the term of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. after significantly degrading the capability of communist rebels to sow chaos, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said on Thursday.

Secretary Eduardo Año made the remarks when asked by reporters during a Palace press conference if the shift of focus to tackle external threats will happen in the term of President Marcos.

“Yes, that is our objective and we are confident that we are going to attain that objective,” Año said in response.

Año said that they expect during the President’s term to put an end to the local armed communist conflict, which has been hounding the country for more than five decades.

This would mean reducing the capability of the rebels and making them irrelevant in terms of number, so that the government could focus its attention to rural development and ensuring the delivery of basic services to the people.

“At hindi lang ‘yun, we can now reorient the focus of the Armed Forces towards external defense. Because, right now, we have so many geopolitical issues and challenges so we need the Armed Forces to now focus [its] eyes on external defense,” he said.

Backing Año, Undersecretary Ernesto Torres, the Executive Director of the NTF-ELCAC Secretariat, said that the government is winning against the insurgents and this could be supported by current data.

Torres said that at the start of the campaign with Executive Order (EO) 70 in December 2018, the government was confronting many guerilla fronts, which is composed of many barangays that the government had to clear.

In 2019, it was battling 89 guerilla fronts all over the country, he said.

But for the past four years, he said, the government dismantled 69 guerilla fronts through whole-of-government approach and whole-of-nation participation.

“So, ibig sabihin 20 na lang ang naiiwan. With one active and 19 considered weakened guerilla fronts. So, the one active is in northern Samar. Those weakened are six in Luzon, seven in the Visayas, and another six in Mindanao,” Torres explained.

“When we say weakened guerilla front, they [rebels] lost their mass base already. So, meaning when they lost their mass base and most of their leaders to include Joma Sison who passed away due to natural reasons.”

The rebels are now experiencing a leadership vacuum, Torres said, stressing this is the time for the government to offer them its amnesty program and show its sincerity in welcoming them back to society.

President Marcos led the 2nd National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) EXECOM Meeting in Malacañang on Thursday, urging various government agencies to continue coming up with a responsive action to encourage communist rebels to surrender and to live normal lives.

Prior to presiding the 2nd NTF-ELCAC EXECOM Meeting, Marcos led the swearing in rites for the Cabinet Officers for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) in Malacañan Palace’s Heroes’ Hall.

Established under Executive Order (EO) No. 70, s. 2018, the NTF-ELCAC operationalizes the whole-of-nation approach in defeating the local communist terrorist groups (CTGs) and obtaining sustainable and inclusive peace throughout the Philippines.

The CORDS, on the other hand, were designated to lead the Joint RTFs and oversee peace and development efforts in every region of the country and also provide assistance in articulating the region’s concerns and perceptions to the rest of the Cabinet and other agencies. PND