Lorenzana aims to end communist insurgency by 2022

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 8) — If things go in favor of the military, the communist insurgency would be nipped in the bud by 2022, the last year of the Duterte administration.

"This insurgency has been going on for the past 50 years na and we cannot end it in one year. Siguro ang target natin ngayon is the remaining three years of President Duterte's presidency, kaya siguro nating gawin yun," Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters Tuesday.

[Translation: Our target is to end the insurgency in the last three years of President Duterte's presidency, I think we can do that.]

Lorenzana said that the combination of localized peace talks and the Enhanced Comprehensive Localized Integration Program (E-CLIP) has greatly reduced the numbers of the New People's Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

"With the way we are doing now with our localized peace talks and the E-CLIP, sa dami ng bumababa, we can do it in three years time," he said.

He estimated that NPA militia forces have at least 50,000 armed men. Of the approximate 11,000 rebel surrenderees last year, 1,000 of them were from the armed wing.

Despite constantly trading barbs, CPP founder Joma Sison and President Rodrigo Duterte have both said that they are still open to peace talks.

READ: Duterte, Sison not closing doors to peace talks

In a statement, the CPP called the new deadline a "pipedream," Lorenzana's surrenderee figures "a farce," and the E-CLIP a "corruption racket."

"Duterte brags of 'localized peace talks' and the so-called E-CLIP (Enhanced Cooperation Local Integration Program), which are nothing but a big corruption racket where billions of pesos line up the pockets of military officers. These programs are being carried out to cover up the failure of the reactionary regime to address the basic demand of the peasant masses for land reform," the CPP said.

It added that it is more likely that President Rodrigo Duterte would be unable to end his term in three years.

"In contrast to declarations of ending the NPA, it is Duterte who is more likely to be unable to end his term as his regime oversees a worsening economic crisis and make people suffer from deteriorating social conditions and rising cost of living. Duterte is rousing the people to wage ever fierce resistance against his tyranny and terrorism," the CPP said.

At the start of the year, Sison said that ousting Duterte from power would be the communist group's top priority for 2019.

READ: Joma Sison: Ousting Duterte is top priority for 2019