Residents of areas infested with communist rebels should expect military operations intensified in scope and coverage, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero said on Friday.
While the focus of operations will be security threats in Mindanao, Guerrero said he had also realigned commanders and troops “to attend to other security concerns in other areas.”
“(Our operations will be) intensified in the sense that they [the public] can expect more patrols, checkpoints especially in the population centers,” Guerrero said at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Friday.
“We want to establish visibility and presence in population centers to deter terrorist actions,” he said.
He said that military operations in western Mindanao would concentrate on jihadi groups, while actions in eastern Mindanao would focus on the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
“Right now, with the upsurge of atrocities in eastern Mindanao, we have started to put in more forces in eastern Mindanao for us to be able to address this problem,” he said.
But the military has also been gearing up for operations in the Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions.
Guerrero said at Camp Nakar in Lucena City on Thursday that operations in Southern Luzon would also intensify with the designation of Maj. Gen. Danilo Pamonag as the new commander of Southern Luzon Command (Solcom).
‘Bad news for enemies’
Guerrero said that the assignment of Pamonag, former commander of the military’s Joint Task Force Marawi, would be “bad news” for communist rebels.
“The combined strength of Solcom and the experience of General Pamonag can only mean good things for the AFP and bad news for our enemies,” he said.
“[This will be a] full-scale military operation that encompasses not only ground forces but also air and naval [assets],” Guerrero said.
The offensive will continue even during the Christmas season as Guerrero said that the military was not inclined to recommend a suspension of military operations (Somo) during the holidays.
“Somo is a political decision. It’s in the discretion of the President. But on the part of the AFP, we will not be recommending it,” he said.
“We are all in to win,” Pamonag said. “Let us be relentless and focus all our energies and resources to hit hard and degrade the capabilities of the remnants of all lawless elements in Southern Luzon.”
Last month, government forces killed 15 NPA rebels in a clash in Nasugbu town in Batangas province.
Brig. Gen. Ernesto Ravina Jr., Solcom deputy commander, led the command in an acting capacity for over a month before Pamonag assumed leadership.