MANILA - (UPDATE) Ending the local communist armed conflict is among President Rodrigo Duterte's marching orders to the new chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Malacañang confirmed on Friday that President Duterte appointed Lt. Gen. Noel Clement as the new head of the Philippine military, succeeding outgoing Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr.
"One of the marching orders of the President is to continue the government’s goal to end the local communist armed conflict...," Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Duterte had sought to end the country’s insurgency problem via peace talks shortly after he assumed office in 2016. But the talks with National Democratic Front negotiators were called off for various reasons such as continuing armed attacks by the New People's Army.
To address the insurgency problem, Clement said he is looking at Eastern Mindanao and Samar as "areas of concern."
"We are looking at Eastern Mindanao and Samar area as areas of concern, yung Negros, we plan to end it by this year," he said.
"I am not here to change the way AFP does its programs, rather to improve it," he said.
Senator Bong Go earlier said the President informed Clement of his new role last Monday.
Panelo explained that the work is no longer new to Clement who previously led the military's Central Command, and the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division.
"The Palace is confident that with General Clement at the helm of the AFP, he will continue to uphold the high degree of professionalism, the dedication and the integrity our soldiers have displayed to the flag and country," Panelo said.
In August, President Duterte warned the public to expect “a little trouble” in the coming months as he called on the military to end the decades-long communist insurgency.
“I am telling the military, kindly end it now. We can’t afford to pass it in the next generations. It has to be now,” Duterte said in a speech last Aug. 27.
“I’m serving notice to everybody that in the coming months, it will be— not really bloody, but there will be a little trouble. We have to finish it,” he said.
-with a report from Annie Perez, ABS-CBN News