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AFP's 18-day unilateral ceasefire ends

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The 18-day unilateral truce declared by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the spirit of the Christmas season ended Monday (January 2). The ceasefire started December 16 to give soldiers a break during the Christmas holiday.

Maj. Harold Cabunoc, spokesman of the Philippine Army, said soldiers immediately resumed their peace and development missions in the remote villages in country, but are forewarned to be security-conscious at all times for possible attacks by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels as they have been doing in the past.

Last month, communist rebels attacked the lightly-armed community organizing and peace development (COPD) teams in Surigao del Sur, killing some of them.

The Philippine Army is in the forefront in the implementation of the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan” program in the remaining insurgency-affected areas in the country.

The IPSP counter-insurgency strategy which was implemented in January 2011 has been very successful as hundreds of NPA rebels have returned to the fold of the law and opted to live a peaceful life with the government extending livelihood program to the former NPA insurgents.

Under the IPSP, the government gives more emphasis on development in rebel-affected areas to spur economic development.

However, Cabunoc said that “our soldiers will also continue to defend the communities against the enemy’s armed aggression. It is part of our mandate to apply the legitimate force against those who insist to disturb the peace in the countryside.”

Under the IPSP strategy, the goal is winning the peace rather than simply defeating the enemy.

In support to Bayanihan, the Army has adopted non-traditional approach in ending the country’s decades-old insurgency, recognizing that insurgency cannot be solved through military action alone, but more importantly through peace and development initiatives in partnership with other stakeholders of society.

It highlights the increased involvement of stakeholders, the national and local government agencies, non-government entities and the entire citizenry in addressing peace and security concerns.

Various divisions and units of the Philippine Army nationwide had already adopted the “Whole of Nation Approach” and “People-Centered Approach” which both focus on winning the peace for the people.

Bayanihan has proven to be effective as evidenced by the popular support it gets from the populace, government agencies and non-government organizations during the first year of its implementation.

For example, last year, the 8th Infantry Division based in Samar, in coordination with the Department of Health (DoH) launched a program dubbed as “Iligtas sa Tigdas ang Pinas.”

The program helped ensure the health of the Samareños, particularly the children living in far-flung communities.

Another endeavor of the division was the ‘Step Juan” wherein the soldiers participated in the Alay Lakad aimed at raising funds for children suffering from cancer.

Last year, the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division also extended medical and dental services to the residents of Iloilo and Negros Oriental, thereby making available basic health services particularly to the less fortunate ones.

The Army will continue to adopt a different perspective on achieving peace other than armed revolution or struggle by exhausting all peaceful means in dealing with the country’s threat groups, particularly in fighting insurgency.

The organization has long been a partner in the government’s peace and development efforts.

Then and now, it continues to be a crucial partner in nation-building. Armed with these measures, there is no doubt that the once elusive peace will be enjoyed by the Filipino people, especially those in the countryside in the very near future.

Meanwhile, Army soldiers received accolades for their invaluable help extended to the victims of heavy flooding in northern Mindanao.

The soldiers brought hundreds of tons of relief goods to the affected communities in support to the local government.

By Ben Cal




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