Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. (File photo)
MANILA – The military will deploy a sufficient force to protect relief convoys and distribution centers against attack from the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Tuesday night.
His remarks came after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to help the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in distributing the government assistance to families affected by the enhanced community quarantine due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak.
“The assistance is needed, especially in remote areas. The military will field sufficient force to defend the convoy from attack or the distribution center,” Lorenzana said in a message to reporters.
He added that this is within the capability of the AFP as the distribution of aid usually takes one to two days only.
“This new directive is in response to the killing of two Army escorts of the DSWD recently,” Lorenzana said.
He was referring to the April 21 incident where troopers of the 91st Infantry Battalion were fired upon by communist rebels while conducting security operations in Barangay Diaat, Maria Aurora town, Aurora province while DSWD personnel were distributing cash assistance.
The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
Lorenzana also clarified that the AFP escorts would be limited to securing personnel in charge of the distribution of the cash aid.
“We will not handle the cash,” he said.
Meanwhile, AFP spokesperson, Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the military is ready to comply with the President’s directive.
“We feel the expressed desire of the President to provide immediate intervention measures to address the need to bring amelioration assistance to the people forthwith. The AFP will comply. Hearing this directive from the Commander in Chief, our field commanders will institute necessary adjustment in our troops’ deployment,” he added. (ia/PNA)