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June 11, 2024

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and its partners remain vigilant against any resurgence of terror activities, including terror grooming by CPP-NPA-NDF remnants, despite the weakened NPA guerilla fronts in Cagayan Valley and surrounding regions.

NTF-ELCAC Executive Director and Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr. emphasized this stance on Tuesday following Pres. Ferdinand R. Marcos call for heightened preparedness against external threats due to increased geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Complacency could undermine the progress made and jeopardize the security of the area,” Torres said, stressing the imperative of staying proactive when dealing with the CPP NPA NDF.

In a recent event in Isabela province, Pres. Marcos Jr highlighted the country's proximity to Taiwan, underscoring its strategic significance within China's sphere of interest. This proximity emphasizes the need for the northern Philippines' readiness to handle potential eventualities.

The President also underscored the 'evolving external threats,' stating that the mission now includes territorial defense against external threats, with a focus on providing the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with the necessary equipment, training, and facilities to enhance its capabilities. He also emphasized the commitment to defending the country's territory without seeking to alter sovereign boundaries, emphasizing the importance of maintaining peace through diplomatic efforts.

In response to the changing geopolitical landscape and emerging threats, the government has designated an area in Cagayan as an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) site in collaboration with the United States, the country's closest military ally. The 5th ID's mission has expanded to include territorial defense, with Joint Task Force (JTF) Tala overseeing regions in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, and the Cordillera Administrative Region, coordinating various military units for enhanced defense capabilities.

Domestically, security threats from groups like the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee (ICRC) and Komiteng Rehiyon Cagayan Valley (KRCV) persist. Efforts to address these threats have resulted in the declaration of insurgency-free status for provinces like Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, and parts of Isabela. Government forces have successfully dismantled multiple communist terrorist group (CTG) units, indicating ongoing efforts to address internal security challenges effectively.

Citing recent AFP updates, Torres mentioned that over 400 NPA rebels have been dealt with this year, reducing the group's membership to approximately 1,000 individuals. Notable achievements from targeted military and police operations include the elimination or capture of several high-ranking CPP-NPA leaders during armed confrontations.

Torres revealed that out of the 89 active guerrilla fronts in 2018, only 9 remain weakened, which the military aims to dismantle this year. These include 5 fronts in Luzon and 2 each in Visayas and Mindanao.

Despite the clearance of most areas from active NPA guerilla fronts, the NTF-ELCAC official stressed that the focus remains on preventing any resurgence of terror activities, including the grooming of new recruits by remnants of the terrorist group.

According to him, the ongoing efforts of the task force and its partners underscore the importance of sustained vigilance and proactive measures to safeguard against any potential resurgence of terrorist activities in the region.

He pointed out that the commitment to maintaining peace and security remains a top priority for both national and local authorities.

"Sustaining peace efforts requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the root causes of conflict and vulnerabilities. By prioritizing prevention, protection, and resource management strategies, communities can mitigate the risk of recruitment and exploitation by armed groups, thereby fostering long-term peace and stability,” he stressed. --30--


Ref: Joel M. Sy Egco



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