MILITANT and progressive groups are condemning the "all-out war" declaration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), saying this will not end the decades-old armed conflict in the country.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced Tuesday that the AFP will be escalating the hostilities into an "all-out war" against the longest communist insurgency in Asia, adding that the New People's Army will now be categorized and subsequently treated as a terrorist group like the Abu Sayyaf.
But youth group Kabataan Partylist-Northern Mindanao coordinator Vennel Chenfoo said the armed struggle in the country "can never be resolved until poverty, unemployment, and injustice remains."
"History has proven that whenever there is exploitation and oppression, there will be resistance. We call on President Duterte to heed the call of the people to continue the peace talks and address the roots of armed conflict," he added.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) spokesperson for Northern Mindanao Wildon Barros said they are worried that civilians in will get caught in the crossfire.
Barros said President Rodrigo Duterte should listen to the people and learn from history that war is never the solution.
"Imbis naputol na gane ang peace talks. Dungagan na pud sa all-out war, unya dili raba luoy ang mga rebelde or mga sundalo, kundili ang mga tao nga anaa diha maigo ug mao ang grabe ang maapektuhan niini (It was discontinued because of the peace talks. Adding up to this is the all-out war, which greatly affects the people, not the rebels or the soldiers)," he said.
Barros said if Duterte, in his term, cannot end the armed struggle through peace talks, he could at least avoid worsening the conflict.
He said all-out war against the rebels could lead to internal displacement as residents in conflict-affected communities flee to safer grounds.
But 4th Infantry Division spokesperson Captain Joe Patrick Martinez assured the public that the safety of civilians will be their paramount concern.
He said the all-out war declaration is intended for the NPA rebels, to convey the message that the army is serious in their anti-insurgency campaign, and not to sow fear among the people.
Martinez also added that they are prioritizing the safety of the civilians in their operations.
"The declaration of Chief Lorenzana are strong words lang na kailangan lang marinig ng NPA (that the NPA should hear), and let them know that we are serious about the situation, but for the public, we assure them na kanilang safety pa rin ang aming priority (is still our priority)," he said.