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Govt confident NPA’s reign of terror will end by 2022

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is confident that the government can end the New People’s Army's (NPA) reign of terror within President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.

According to NTF-ELCAC Vice Chairman Sec. Hermogenes Esperon during the Kapihan sa Ilocos on Tuesday, the President's deadline of ending the communist terrorist group (CTG) can be achieved by the Task Force, based on the rate at which "tired" NPA combatants are surrendering.

“Self-imposed namin iyan at si Pangulo, dahil siya ang Chairman ng NTF-ELCAC. He wants to finish the NPA by July 2022. Sa estimate ko lang from their current strength of about 3,500, palagay ko baba na iyan. Mabilis na ang pagbaba niyan dahil ang dami ang nagsusurender. So, kung ito’y baba ng halimbawa ng 2,000 nationwide, magiging law and order problem na lang ito. Ibig sabihin primarily pulis na lang ang hahawak sa kanila at local governments,” Esperon said.

He said the NTF-ELCAC is faithfully following a timeline, but he also knew that there would still be some supporters to remain and several issues to be solved in the next administration. “Paspasan ito marami ng mabubuwag, madami na ang magsusurender,” Esperon, also the National Security Adviser, added.

The official, who attended the last State of the Nation Address (SONA) of Duterte, commented on Tuesday’s Laban Para sa Bayan TV Program that he particularly liked the President’s view on insurgency, which can only be solved through a “whole-of-a-nation” approach and not by military force alone.

“Ang sabi niya hindi masosolve iyan ng military lang kundi kailangan talaga natin the whole of nation approach. Kaya tuwang tuwa kami dahil he was true all the way as Chairman of the National Task Force ELCAC. Sinabi niya kung ano yung kanyang framework to solve this insurgency,” Esperon said.

In his SONA, Duterte said, “Peace and Security is not only just a military concern. That's why we deviated from the traditional purely military approach in dealing with matters of national security. With the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-ELCAC, we have made strides in addressing the root causes of this conflict by empowering our kababayans who have been used by the communist forces in many decades.”

“In our continuing effort to build safe and conflict-resilient barangays we have worked towards the sustainable rehabilitation and development of communities where the communist used to operate. Through the NTF-ELCAC, we invested in farm-to-market roads, school buildings, water and sanitations, health stations, and livelihood,” Duterte added.

This is the focus of NTF-ELCAC’s hallmark program—the Barangay Development Program (BDP), which is to bring development to former conflict-prone communities that have been ravaged by the CTGs Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

The BDP’s core programs and projects for each recipient barangay, which would receive PHP20 million, include a 1-kilometer farm-to-market road worth PHP12 million, classrooms (PHP3 million), water and sanitation systems (PHP2 million), a health station (PHP1.5 million), and livelihood projects (PHP1.5 million).

Esperon lamented on how some lawmakers viewed and questioned the PHP 16.5 billion budget and its allotment to the various regions in the country, especially with Mindanao getting a big chunk of the budget.

“Medyo magastos daw sabi ng ilang kongresista doon sa Barangay Development Program para sa NTF ELCAC daw. Ano ba yung ibibigay mo yung PHP 20 million kada barangay na apektado ng sentro ng insurgency na 822 barangays for 2021 at sa second batch ay 2,380," he further explained.

He said Mindanao got many of the projects because of the huge number of forces of the CPP-NPA-NDF that were stopped in its provinces.

“Karamihan ng mga projects ay nakaconcetrate ngayon doon sa Mindanao, yung 822 barangays,” Esperon said, adding, “But look where we are now. Look kung anong magiging concentration ng BDP in the next phase, Region 5 with 542, Region 6 with 193, Region 8, Samar and Leyte with 319.”

Esperon was also elated that the President took note of the work being done by the NTF-ELCAC in bringing peace and prosperity to the former areas that were being exploited by the CTGs.

“Kaya makikita ninyo kami ay natutuwa dahil sa sinabi ng Pangulo na kailangan din natin nitong ganitong mga programa para naman masabay doon sa ginagawa nating malakihang mga projects sa Build. Build. Build. Malalaki iyan ‘di ba to connect town centers, provinces, regions," he stressed.

“But we most of all need the projects for the barangays, especially those that are geographically isolated and depressed and disadvantaged area and those that are conflict affected. At ito na nga ang solusyon for this 52 going 53-years problem. Kailangang tapusin na natin ito,” Esperon pointed out.

The NTF-ELCAC official claimed that the government already has strong presence in arease previously influenced by the NPA.

"Kaya nga kung saan sila malakas, diyan din tayo magiging malakas. I think were not only giving them a good fight but we are trying to end their fight. And we are very confident we can end that,” he concluded.



Ref: Usec Joel Sy Egco



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