Esperon to Eastern Command: crush the NPA; uphold peace process with MILF

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon gave the orders to Maj. Gen. Rodolfo Obaniano, head of EastMinCom, during its activation Tuesday morning at the Philippine Air Force Station in the old airport in Sasa, Davao City .

Obaniana was commanding officer of the 6th Infantry Division based in Awang, Maguindanao, until his designation as EastMinCom chief.

Last Monday, Esperon activated the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) in the old Southern Command headquarters in Zamboanga City.

The break up of the Armed Forces Southern Command (Southcom), the biggest in the country, came more than two months after President Arroyo ordered the Armed Forces to crush the communist insurgency.

Esperon did not give a deadline for Obaniana to crush the communist rebellion but said soldiers of his command are facing at least 740 armed communist rebels in the eastern part of Mindanao.

He said the Philippine National Police has also been ordered to conduct combat operations to help realize the  2010 deadline imposed by President Arroyo to crush the insurgency.

The peace talks between communist rebels and the  government broke down two years ago. Since then the rebels have attacked towers of telecommunication companies that refused to pay “revolutionary taxes” and raided police stations to get guns.

But while waging war on the communist rebels, the government continues to negotiate a peace deal with the MILF. At present,  the 1997 general ceasefire agreement which was reiterated in 2003, has been holding,  with hostilities dropping from a high of 590 armed clashes in 2003 to an insignificant number now.

Obianana’s command was also ordered to secure agricultural plantations from communist rebels since these businesses contribute as much ten percent to Mindanao’s economy.

“I want this command to be a catalyst in the growth of Mindanao,” Esperon said.

EastMinCom will be composed of the Cagayan de Oro-based  4th Infantry Division; the 6th Infantry Division and the new 10th Infantry Division based in Panacan, Davao City.

The command covers the cities of Davao, General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Cotabato, Kidapawan,  Digos, Tagum, Butuan, Surigao, Valencia, Malaybalay and Cagayan de Oro.

The Western Military Command, commanded by Maj. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, will be based in Zamboanga City. It will be composed of the 1st Infantry Division  in Pagadian City and the Philippine Marines Forces South in the two Lanao provinces.

Esperon said the EastMinCom will have its temporary headquarters at the Air Force station in the old airport but will eventually be transferred to Panacan where the 10th Infantry Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Ernesto Boac, is based.

He said Air Force helicopters and naval ships formerly assigned to the defunct Southcom will be evenly distributed to the new commands.

The blue and green flag of the Eastern Mindanao Command was unfurled for the first time to the public this morning. On its center, the flag has the shape of Mt. Apo in yellow.

The ceremony went without a hitch this morning until Obaniano was called up to sign the orders designating him as the chief of the newly activated command.

Obaniana stepped forward onstage only to find  out that the papers he was supposed to sign was missing.

As red-faced military aides scurried to find the papers, a military officer was overheard joking, “Baka tinago para hindi maka assume office si Sir (Maybe the papers were hidden so Obaniana cannot assume office).”

Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla, Undersecretary Rodolfo del Rosario and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte led dignitaries who attended the ceremony. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)

Comments

comments