ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Ricardo David said yesterday the military would adopt the peace-oriented approach of retired Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino to end rebellion and violence in conflict areas.
As Westmincom chief, Dolorfino reached out to rebel groups by helping local governments in development efforts. “That’s the most important aspect of the military operation,” David said, adding that decades of conventional type of operations have not been effective against the communist New People’s Army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
“Let’s stop fighting. We have the more important threat (to deal with) like calamity, and also the external defense,” David told reporters here.
“Our country is rich but our resources are being spent in the internal security operations,” he said.
“If we don’t spend on internal security operations we can set aside money for the external territorial defense,” he said. Dolorfino said the AFP over the years has trained soldiers who are “built to kill.” He said soldiers need to be “people oriented” even while keeping their fighting form.
But even as he voiced his preference for a “peace-oriented” approach to ending rebellion, David cited the need for a potent force in Mindanao ahead of the peace talks between the government and the MILF. “We need a potent force in the mainland of Mindanao particularly (for) peace talks. We need to beef up some forces in the mainland,” David said.
David also squelched speculation that the pullout of the 1st Marine Brigade in Basilan was meant to restore the Army’s control of Westmincom.
“It’s part of the operational strategy,” David said of the Marine brigade’s withdrawal.
The 1st Marine Brigade, formerly based in Tabiawan, Isabela City, Basilan, has gradually moved its forces to Maasin town, Sarangani Province. It still keeps one-third of its forces in Basilan.
The MILF earlier filed a ceasefire protest against the redeployment of the Marines, saying it was provocative.
Westmincom has control over the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, two Marine brigades in Sulu, the Naval Forces Western Mindanao, and the Air Force 3rd Air Division. Westmincom was formed in 2006, with an Army official as its first chief.