MANILA — With what he describes as successes in local peace engagement with communist rebels, the Philippine government’s peace advisor said on Wednesday he remains optimistic the world’s longest insurgency will be brought to an end “at the right time”.
Sec. Carlito Galvez, presidential adviser on peace, reconciliation, and unity, said a “non-lethal approach” implemented by the government in recent years has helped win over former members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) - New People’s Army (NPA).
The administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has also focused on amplifying localized talks as its main tool of engaging with rebels, but Galvez said they are waiting for the “perfect moment” to finally put the insurgency to a close.
“We will keep still kahit ‘yong small opening for the final settlement—political settlement—of the conflict. And we are looking for the right time for that. And hopefully the right time is really now,” Galvez told reporters at a forum in Manila.
“Even though we are engaging now massively with local peace engagement, there should be a complete termination of the conflict, and that is the political settlement. And we are waiting for the time the CPP-NPA will commit itself for very goodwill engagement with the government.”
The peace adviser, who is a retired military general, said they will look at having a final settlement with the Reds once the government is “convinced they are sincere” in that commitment.
Since 2019 when the Duterte administration terminated peace talks with the Reds, around 27,000 communist guerrillas have surrendered to the government, Galvez said.
Armed confrontations, he added, have “completely diminished into negligible levels”, as police and military have been able to implement what he calls a “perpetual ceasefire.”
He declined to say if the government will consider giving a Christmas truce with the guerillas this year, adding he did not want to preempt decisions to be made.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recently said active NPA fronts were reduced from more than 80 to 5, with some in the Visayas region.
Galvez cited the formation of the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the interior department’s push to increase development funding for communities as instrumental to these gains.
Officials of the task force have been flagged in the past for red-tagging—accusing activists, scholars, journalists, and government critics of working with communist rebels.
In September, a Manila court junked the government’s tagging of the CPP-NPA as terrorists.
While the NTF-ELCAC was allocated a reduced budget for 2023 compared to the previous year, National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos said the funds are meant for “deeper and wider” development efforts to counter-insurgency, especially in the provinces.
Under the Marcos Jr. administration, officials like Carlos are pushing for the government to offer amnesty as a way of enticing rebels to return to the fold of the law.
Former rebel fighters were among the 30,000 given public housing by the National Housing Authority this week.