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.
NTF-ELCAC Vice Chairman Secretary Hermogenes Esperon told a weekly forum that the Task Force based its assessment on the rate at which “tired” NPA combatants are surrendering.
“Self-imposed (target( namin iyan at si Pangulo, as 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.
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 P1.5 million).
Esperon lamented how some lawmakers viewed and questioned the P 16.5 billion budget and its allotment to the various regions in the country, especially with Mindanao getting a big chunk of the budget.
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.
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.
“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 areas previously influenced by the NPA.