The militant wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is called the New People’s Army (NPA). While most of the armed groups that we are discussing this week are Mindanao based, the NPA operates throughout the Philippines, and actually is more active in Luzon and the Visayas than it is in Mindanao. The NPA was formed in 1969, and is a Maoist organization, meaning that it follows the teachings of Mao Tse Tung, the Chinese Premier back in those days. While Communism has seemed to have lost it’s glitter around the world in the past 20 years or so, the NPA is still stronly connected with Communism.
The leader of the NPA, since inception has been Jose Maria Sison. Sison has been living in exile in the Netherlands since 1987. Sison still runs the NPA operations, though, remotely from the Netherlands. Since the days after the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11/2001, the United States has classified certain people around the world as terrorists, and Sison is among those considered Terrorist leaders under this program. Currently, based on European Union court rulings in recent years, it is expected that Sison will be extradited to the Philippines sometime in the near future.
In recent years, President Arroyo has proclaimed that the NPA will be wiped out by the Philippine Armed Forces by 2010, although it is my personal opinion that this goal cannot be accomplished, especially in that time frame. The NPA is very active, and also very elusive. There are always new people ready to enter the group, so if some are killed or arrested, there are plenty of others to take their place. With an organization like this, wiping them out in only a matter of 2 years or so is seemingly impossible.
When it comes to foreigners, it is my contention that the NPA generally does not go after foreigners. I feel that if you mind your business, and not nose into their business, you will not be bothered by the NPA. I would not recommend that you venture into their territory if you have no business there. Even if you are not a target, it is possible that you could get caught in the crossfire of an armed skirmish between the NPA and the Philippine military, so it’s best to stay away. Generally, the NPA does not operate in developed areas like in the City. It is more likely to run across the NPA if you are out deep in the Province where there is little development. This is the kind of area where you could expect that the NPA is likely to be operating.
As I said earlier, the NPA is not as much of a threat here in Mindanao as it is in Luzon and the Visayas, although there is NPA activity in Mindanao too. If you plan to venture into very rural areas, it’s best to just ask some people who live in the area where you will be traveling about any NPA activity in the area, and they can generally offer you good advice on that.
Remember, educating yourself about the threat, and getting good up-to-date information is the best thing you can do to keep safe!