Leyte's anti-poverty program vs. insurgency works: guv

By Sarwell Meniano / Philippine News Agency

Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla (Photo courtesy of the Province of Leyte)

TACLOBAN CITY – Developing far-flung communities through the "whole of nation approach" is the key to ending insurgency in Leyte province, Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla said on Friday.


Petilla, in an interview with Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar over "Cabinet Report" program, explained how his province's program to address poverty worked hand-in-hand with the mission of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).


He said the compact integrated farming augmented by the national government's effort to end armed struggle did not just curb insurgency, but also poverty and criminality.


“The root cause of insurgency is poverty and this program (compact integrated farming) has been addressing poverty. I am happy that this has become one of the counter-insurgency measures in the province as we envision making farming profitable for poor families,” Petilla added.


Leyte's compact farming program that started in 2011 has been enhanced with the creation of the NTF-ELCAC in 2018.


"Now that it is a national program through NTF-ELCAC, I know it would work. What is the impact on this in villages? The first village covered by our program since 2015, malnutrition, crime, and insurgency have been resolved. In terms of poverty, 70 out of 98 families were poor in 2015. Now, there are only seven poor households," Petilla said.


The compact farming program has covered over 300 villages in Leyte province this year. Some of these villages were previously influenced by the New People’s Army (NPA).


Since the program’s launch in 2011, enrolled villages have experienced dramatic economic development from major improvements in infrastructure and an increase in food production.


The most successful is Villaconzoilo, an upland village seven kilometers away from the town center of Jaro, Leyte also known as "the birth of Leyte Economics Program" which aims to reduce poverty, Petilla said.


Aside from being the most impoverished area in the province in the past, the village was also affected by the insurgency.


From producing high-value vegetables with a start-up capital of PHP1,800 from members’ contributions, the village evolved into a top farm-tourism destination in the province.


The organization managed to raise PHP20 million in assets with more than PHP4 million cash in the bank and cultivates 20-hectare farmland as of the end of 2019.


Through ELCAC, several national government agencies also came in such as the Departments of Agriculture, Tourism, and Science and Technology to boost the provincial government's program.


"I think it’s very sustainable with NTF-ELCAC being led by President Duterte, you now have a vehicle, an instrument to do that all over the country," Petilla added.


Executive Order No. 70, which was signed by the President in December 2018, created the National Task Force ELCAC that institutionalized a whole-of-nation approach in fighting the five-decade armed struggle of NPA.


The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)

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