Terrorism, insurgency biggest challenges for new military chief: security expert

Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 06 2018 06:29 PM

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez. From the AFP Western Mindanao Command Facebook page

MANILA - Addressing terror threats and insurgency are the biggest challenges that incoming Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez will face once he assumes his new post, a security expert said Friday.

Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, said Galvez faces the task of ending the martial law declaration in Mindanao as smoothly as possible.

Military rule will remain in place in Mindanao until the end of the year as government cited remaining security threats in the restive south despite the end of the 5-month siege of Marawi City in October. 

“Pinakasakit ng ulo dito is 'yung evolving nature ng terrorism sa Mindanao," Banlaoi said, noting that the next military chief should prevent local terrorists from regrouping and from executing another siege.

“Hamon sa papasok na AFP Chief of Staff ay ma-prevent ang mga grupo na ito na makapag-regroup, mag-solidify at mag-mount ng panibagong pag-atake sa Mindanao, pati na rin sa ibang dako ng Pilipinas,” he added.

Galvez, the current Western Mindanao Command chief, played a key role in ending the Marawi siege mounted by Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City.

He was among key military officials who provided strategic direction and deployed forces to rescue civilian hostages and neutralize terror leader Isnilon Hapilon, among others.

Aside from handling terror threats, Galvez should also find a way to deal with the New People's Army (NPA) now that the government wants to resume peace talks with communist insurgents, Banlaoi said. 

“Ang hamon sa chief of staff ay ang makumbinsi 'yung New People's Army na bawasan 'yung kanilang military activities dahil gusto rin ng AFP na maipagpatuloy 'yung peace talks sa kanila,” Banlaoi said.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday ordered his Cabinet to work on the resumption of peace talks with leftist rebels "with clear instructions" to push for a ceasefire, according to his peace adviser Jesus Dureza.

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison welcomed Duterte's pronouncement, but said "no side shall impose on the other side preconditions that negate the character and purpose of peace negotiations."

Talks had collapsed in November last year as Duterte cited continued communist attacks on state forces despite ongoing negotiations. 

Banlaoi, who is also the director of the Center for Intelligence and National Security Studies, said another issue that would test Galvez's leadership skills is how he would handle tensions in the West Philippine Sea, part of the disputed South China Sea, and the Sulu Sea, a hotbed of transnational crimes. 

“May mga security challenges din sa Sulu Sea kasi diyan nago-operate yung ibat ibang nature ng transnational crimes. International terrorism andiyan din at nage-extend 'yan sa Celebes Sea,” he said.

Galvez is set to assume leadership of the military on April 18.

“I will do my best to serve the President the best I can with honor, integrity and loyalty,” Galvez said in a statement after Malacañang announced his appointment.