Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Benjamin Madrigal Jr. is confident that the newly designated commander of Eastern Mindanao Command can implement the whole of nation approach of the National Task Force in a bid to end insurgency.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., the new EastMinCom chief, to further strengthen its engagement to the local chief executives, stakeholders, and the community to further drove more NPA surrenderees.
In a change of command ceremony yesterday held at the Naval Felix Apolinario Station in Panacan, Madrigal said knows Santos personally when he was still the commander of the 7th Infantry Division where “he has proven that he is able to harness the whole of nation of approach.”
The AFP chief said the first marching order for Santos is to operationalize the National Task Force.
During the command conference yesterday held at the EastMinCom headquarters, Madrigal said they already handed down the guidance to localize the whole of nation approach.
“And of course, to the government workers and other stake holders to be able to address the requirement and needs of the conflict affected areas,” he added.
Santos Jr., the outgoing commander of 7th Infantry Division based in Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, officially assumed command yesterday as the chief of EastMinCom replacing OIC, Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva, also the concurrent commander of the 4th Infantry Division.
In an interview at the sidelines of the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Santos, said that for now the EastMinCom has almost attained its objective of ending the communist rebellion in its jurisdiction. His job is to continue the gains made by the command in urging so many former rebels to surrender.
The engagement with the local chief executives and stakeholders still continues,” Santos said. “In fact, as the new commander, I believe the key in solving insurgency is through good governance, through the local chief executives.”
He said they have already an instruction to the brigade commanders to deal with the different governors to form the national task force.
“Once we have identified issues, we will give a solution and it is a whole of nation approach which all programs must be matched to address those issues,” he further said.
Santos was appointed last week by President Rodrigo R. Duterte upon the recommendation of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
Lt. Col. Ezra Balagtey, EastMinCom spokesperson, said Santos is described as a “strategist who is not new to the situation in Mindanao.”
Santos is a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Sinagtala” Class of 1986 with his classmate, Lt. Gen. Macairog S. Alberto, the current Philippine Army Chief.
“Santos is adept to the wide range of peace and security programs, having been assigned with the strategic offices of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) dealing with operations, intelligence and civil-military operations,” he added.
Santos once headed the 11th Intelligence Service Unit based in Davao City and subsequently became the group commander of the Army’s Intelligence Service Group.