The task force, chaired by President Rodrigo Duterte himself, seeks to improve the quality of life in areas experiencing clashes with communist rebels
President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order (EO) creating a national task force to address causes of armed conflict with communists at the local level.
EO No. 70, signed on December 4, seeks to do this by ensuring the provision of social services, employment opportunities, and improved quality of life in communities that have been experiencing, or are vulnerable to, armed communist conflict.
Adopting the "whole-of-nation" approach of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the strategy is an affirmation that a "purely military option in combating terrorism and extremism" is not enough. (READ: Guns not only answer vs NPA, says next military chief Madrigal)
"Towards this end, the Government shall prioritize and harmonize the delivery of basic services and social development packages in conflict-affected and -vulnerable areas," reads the EO.
A National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict was created to supervise the delivery of such services. Chaired by the President himself and vice-chaired by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, the task force is composed of various national government agencies and two private sector representatives.
It will craft a National Peace Framework that will contain plans and programs for inclusive and sustainable peace and for addressing the root causes of insurgencies and conflicts.
Crucially, it also allows for localized peace talks with communist groups.
"The Framework shall include a mechanism for localized peace engagements or negotiations and interventions that is nationally orchestrated, directed, and supervised, while being locally implemented," reads the order.
Last July, Duterte approved guidelines for localized peace talks, or negotiations between local communist rebels and local government units. This was after Duterte terminated the national government's talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
The CPP rejected the guidelines for localized peace talks.