MEETINGS ARE now ongoing for the operationalization of the localized peace process strategy, which will focus not just on ending the communist armed struggle but building “conflict-resilient” communities. “Aside from focusing on our enemies, we also have to look at our people and communities through a people-centered strategy to make our communities resilient from communist recruitment, propaganda, and exploitation,” said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr. in a statement on Thursday, Jan. 3. The government’s new policy direction for addressing the 50-year old communist insurgency stems from Executive Order No. 70 signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte last Dec. 4. EO 70 seeks to ensure the provision of social services, employment opportunities, and improved quality of life in communities that have been experiencing, or are vulnerable to, armed communist conflict. “We have made significant progress and have headways in our campaign to end insurgency, but to reach what we can call a complete victory, we need to create communities that are conflict-resilient and we need local and national government agencies to attain this,” said Mr. Madrigal. The AFP reported that in 2018, a total of 12,017 Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (NPA) members and supporters were “neutralized,” including 11,623 who surrendered, 130 killed and 264 apprehended in legitimate security and law enforcement operations. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras