CALABARZON region comprising Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon has made history for being the first to create a Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or RTF-ELCAC in the country in consonance with President Duterte’s order, the Journal Group has learned.
This after the Calabarzon RTF-ELCAC was activated during ceremonies at the Police Regional Office 4-A headquarters in Camp Vicente Lim attended by Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año.
The RTF-ELCAC 4-A will help address armed conflict between the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces on one side and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front and their armed wing, the New People’s Army on the other side, said PRO4-A director, Brigadier General Edward E. Carranza.
Last December 4, President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 70 which created a national task force to address causes of armed conflict with communists at the local level. The task force will ensure the provision of social services, employment opportunities, and improved quality of life in communities that have been experiencing, or are vulnerable to, armed communist conflict.
The Duterte government has adopted the “whole-of-nation” approach of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in creating the national task force knowing that the strategy is an affirmation that a “purely military option in combating terrorism and extremism” is not enough.
“Towards this end, the Government shall prioritize and harmonize the delivery of basic services and social development packages in conflict-affected and -vulnerable areas,” the Executive Order said.
The signing of the EO saw the creation of a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict which is headed by the President himself with National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. as vice-chairman.
The task force is composed of various national government agencies and two private sector representatives mandated to craft a National Peace Framework that will contain plans and programs for inclusive and sustainable peace and for addressing the root causes of insurgencies and conflicts.
Crucially, it also allows for localized peace talks with communist groups. “The Framework shall include a mechanism for localized peace engagements or negotiations and interventions that is nationally orchestrated, directed, and supervised, while being locally implemented,” EO 70 said.
President Duterte in July last year approved guidelines for localized peace talks or negotiations between local communist rebels and local government units after terminating the national government’s talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines.
During the regional task force opening, Sec. Año underscored that the best weapon to address insurgency is the implementation of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) of the government. Add to this the need to intensify the interventions and campaign plans to address the elements of insurgency.
Carranza said discussed during the activity were the Threat Situation Update, Campaign Overview, RTF-ELCAC 4A Updates and Updates on Tabletop Exercise on Convergence which were all presented by officials from the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division and 202nd Brigade.
According to Sec. Año, the RTF-ELCAC will be replicated in other regions.
“We will form the 12 clusters under the Regional Task Force and conduct series of meetings and workshops aligning in the composition of the National Task Force,” the DILG secretary said.
The activity was highlighted by the symbolic distribution of E-CLIP Assistance to 20 former NPA rebels in Calabarzon who have surrendered to security officials. The 20 include 17 members of the Militia ng Bayan who were given 15,000 each as immediate assistance and three members of the NPA who were given 15,000 each Immediate Assistance and 50,000 Livelihood Assistance.
The 20 former rebels previously worked under Calabarzon-based NPA groups such as the Ganap na Kasapi ng Partido, Milisyang Bayan, Kontak, Baseng Masa and Organisadong Masa under Sub-Region Military Area operating in the provinces of Laguna, Rizal, and Quezon.