Philippines slipping in war against communists -report

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MANILA, Nov 13 (Reuters) The Philippine military has had limited success in destroying the firepower of communist insurgents, putting it way behind the target of wiping out the rebellion by 2010, a classified army report said.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is also commander-in-chief, has said she wants the New People's Army (NPA) largely defeated by the time she steps down from power in June 2010.

But an assessment report seen by Reuters said the military was not winning enough victories against the NPA, which despite the collapse of communism worldwide continues to strike a chord with poor Filipinos angered at widening inequality at home.

''Although there were successes in all threat areas, the military was not gaining enough to attain strategic victory at the desired rate,'' the report on the government's ''Bantay Laya'', or ''Guard Freedom'' operation, said.

''If the military continues its operations at the current rate, it is projected that the communist insurgency will be defeated by 2018,'' the report prepared by the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans said.

The NPA, fighting for the establishment of a communist government, has waged a rebellion since 1969 that has killed more than 40,000 people. Peace talks with Manila broke down in 2004.

Under fire for its human rights record and for falling behind the 2010 goal, the military re-adjusted its anti-communist strategy this year focusing less on combat operations and more on information campaigns and development projects to counter civilian support for the NPA.

With its new strategy, ''Bantay Laya II'', the military is predicting that 80 per cent of the NPA's 100 bases will be dismantled by 2010, a tall order given that less than 20 camps have been removed since the beginning of 2002.

The army wants to flush the 6,300-member NPA out of around 19 bases in 2007. It removed only 5 in the first half.

In its strategic assessment, the military said inadequate resources, particularly a lack of helicopters and transport planes, were a problem when trying to corner rebels living in remote, mountainous areas.

The armed forces, which has been involved in over a dozen coup plots since the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, also said its soldiers were distracted by ''political adventurism'' and their deployment during elections.

The report said that soldiers could not focus on their security roles because they were overburdened with other tasks, unrealistic targets and a lack of funds.

At the policy level, the assessment report found the government did not prosecute enough militants and its propaganda was weak.

Hundreds of leftist activists have been murdered since Arroyo came to power in 2001 and the UN has said the military was responsible for many of the killings, which international groups say were part of a dirty war against the left.

The army has denied the executions were official policy and has blamed rogue soldiers and internal purges within the NPA.


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