KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/04 July) — Government agencies, military and law enforcement units, and local governments in Region 12 have committed to jointly pursue more aggressive peace and development initiatives in a bid to address the communist insurgency in the region.
Members of the Regional Development Council (RDC) and the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) jointly convened here on Thursday to formally launch the Regional Task Force in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict or RTF-ELCAC.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security for Region 12, led the first-ever organizational meeting of the task force “to immediately set it running on the ground.”
He was joined by Undersecretary Damian Carlos, the deputy director general of the National Security Council.
He said the creation of the RTF-ELCAC, which he chairs, is in line with the efforts of the national government to address common problems under the “whole-of-nation” approach supposedly initiated by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
The “whole-of-nation” approach was coined during the Aquino III administration as the guiding concept in implementing Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan.
The approach, which was based on Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70, mainly brings together all government agencies, with all aiming to achieve peace in the countryside and development at the national level by maximizing the use of government resources, Piñol said.
He said the purpose of the meeting here was to gather and unite government agencies that were previously “considered as independent kingdoms, pointing fingers at one another and not admitting responsibility” when problems come up.
“Today is a different story. We are one, we are government. The concern of one agency is the concern of all,” he said in a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
During the meeting, Piñol said they initially identified various socio-economic and development-related problems as well as issues affecting the region’s four provinces and four cities.
He said they came up with six clusters and assigned member-agencies of the RDC and RPOC to work on at least 12 “lines of efforts.”
These are local government empowerment, basic services, livelihood and poverty alleviation, infrastructure and resource management, localized peace engagements, Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program and amnesty program, strategic communication, situational awareness and knowledge management, international engagements, legal cooperation, sectoral unification, capacity building and empowerment, and peace and development.
The task force has initially proposed a funding of some P3.24 billion this year for its priority programs and projects and P1.26 billion for 2020.
Piñol said he asked military units operating in the region to identify barangays that are influenced by the New People’s Army (NPA) and “where people feel that government is not present and doesn’t care for them.”
“Our target now is to people in these barangays that we have a government by bringing our services to them,” he said.
In one affected village, for example, he said the Department of Agriculture may fund the construction of a farm-to-market road and provide necessary machineries to improve the livelihood of the people.
He said other agencies may come for needed services, like the Department of Health for nutrition programs.
“That’s how we are going to address the problem and it’s all covered by President’s whole-of-nation approach,” he said.
Piñol added that he will convene anew the task force before the end of the month to gather inputs on their assigned tasks “so we start working together.”
The NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging an armed struggle since 1969, and has engaged post-Marcos administrations in on-and-off peace negotiations since 1986. (MindaNews)