With Philippine security forces on full alert for attacks ahead of the 49th anniversary of the founding of the communist New People’s Army on 29 March, and promising a ‘summer offensive’ against the non-state armed group, foreign organisations could find themselves caught in the crossfire.
On 26 March, the Philippine National Police commander, Director-General Ronald dela Rosa, said his personnel would launch a ‘summer offensive’ against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) during the dry season, which traditionally ends by early May. He said that increased police operations would be coordinated with wider government measures against the CPP’s ‘front organizations and support system’.
A week earlier, the military’s Northern Luzon Command (NolCom) said that its units were on full alert status, ahead of the 49th anniversary of the founding of the NPA non-state armed group on 29 March. Other military and police formations are also likely to have increased their vigilance in anticipation of NPA attacks to mark the anniversary and demonstrate the group’s capabilities.
In the weeks leading up to 29 March, NPA fighters increased operations against military targets, in line with NolCom’s assessment. Police and army units reported a higher tempo of often brief attacks against fixed positions and patrols that correspond with ‘blooding’ operations intended to induct new recruits or raise the morale of existing NPA fighters.
Meanwhile, the government’s efforts to have the supreme court declare the NPA a terrorist organisation could provoke the insurgents to carry out operations against either military or commercial targets, including foreign companies in the mining and agribusiness sectors.
Last November, President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the Philippine government’s peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA and in December signed a proclamation declaring the CPP and the NPA – which has been fighting successive Philippine governments since 1969 – terrorist organisations, making it illegal to provide any financial support to these groups.
As Allan & Associates noted, this left some foreign companies – notably those in the mining and plantation sectors that are the main target for NPA ‘tax’ collecting – caught between the government crackdown and NPA extortion.
The government is currently petitioning the Manila regional trial court to declare the NPA a terrorist organization.
On 4 February, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison calls for intensified attacks against the military, claiming that the NPA has the capacity to kill a soldier a day in each of the country’s 17 regions. In response, the security forces said they were prepared for intensified attacks from the NPA.
The threat from NPA attacks is heightened around the 29 March anniversary, and while insurgents are unlikely to directly target foreign companies or personnel not engaged in mining or agribusiness, there is a risk staff may become involved in a clash between the insurgents and the security forces in remote areas anywhere in the country.
Allan & Associates strongly advises against any non-essential travel outside urban areas during this period and when travelling by road to maintain as great a distance as possible from police or military vehicles.
Organisations should have contingency plans in place to respond to any incident in which personnel are caught up in clashes.