Eastern Mindanao Command head is new AFP chief

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 2) — Lt. Gen. Felimon Santos, Jr., current head of the Eastern Mindanao Command, is the next chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In an interview with CNN Philippines on Thursday, Santos confirmed that he will formally assume the post on Saturday, hopeful that President Rodrigo Duterte will attend the change of command ceremony.

Santos will replace Lt. Gen. Noel Clement, who is retiring on January 5 after a three-month stint.

READ: Fixed term for AFP chief pushed amid Clement's stint

"I'm very thankful to the President for his trust and confidence sa akin [on me] to lead the AFP in this point in time," Santos said.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy “Sinagtala” Class of 1986, Santos will be AFP chief for seven months. He will step down on August 3 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Plans for the AFP

Like Clement and his other predecessors, Santos said he will prioritize the government's fight against armed communist rebels. The Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, New People's Army, have waged a five-decade insurgency, the longest-running in Asia.

Santos said the Armed Forces under his watch will continue to support the President's "whole-of nation" approach against the rebels, in line with Executive Order 70.

"In the previous years, parang pagka sinabi mong may insurgency sa isang area (when you say there's insurgency in one area), it's the AFP and PNP's (Philippine National Police's) problem... but now... it's the local chief executive that's now leading in solving the problem," Santos said.

"We will try na mawala ang (to eradicate the) NPAs so local executives can focus on good governance in their areas," he added.

Who is Filemon Santos, Jr.?

Santos has been involved in peace and security prorgrams all over the country as he has been assigned with the strategic officials dealing with operations, intelligence, and civil-military operations.

Before assuming the post of Easmincom chief in January 2019, Santos was commander of the 7th Infantry Division based in Nueva Ecija.

He also previously served as 63rd Infantry Battalion Commander in Samar, head of the 703rd Infantry Brigade in Central Luzon, and operations chief of the Central Command in the Visayas, among others.