COMMAND CONFERENCE. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over the Joint National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police (AFP-PNP) Command Conference at the Malacañan Palace Monday (Nov. 18, 2019). Duterte emphasized the need for the government to focus on "conflict-prone" communities in an effort to stop the decades-old communist insurgency in the country. (Presidential photo by Albert Alcain)
President Rodrigo Duterte has emphasized the need for the government to focus on "conflict-prone" communities in an effort to stop the decades-old communist insurgency in the country.
Duterte made the call during a joint command conference with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine National Police (PNP) held at Malacañan Palace on Monday, National Security Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said on Tuesday.
"During the joint conference, the President stressed his desire to put an end to the more than 50 years of communist insurgency, saying that the effort is for future generations," Esperon said in a statement.
Duterte, as quoted by Esperon, said during the joint command conference: "If we cannot solve this problem now, our children will be confronted with this problem still. Ako gusto ko tapusin na lahat (I want to end this)."
On November 23, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation 360, formally scrapping the peace talks between state peace negotiators and consultants of the Communist Party of the Philippines' (CPP) political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Proclamation 360 provides that the CPP, NDF, and its armed wing New People's Army (NPA) failed to show sincerity in pursuing "genuine and meaningful" peaceful negotiations, despite the "best efforts" exerted by the Duterte administration.
On December 4, 2018, Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) 70, which institutionalizes the whole-of-nation approach that will be implemented by the NTF-ELCAC in a bid to attain "inclusive and sustainable peace."
'Challenges, limitations' need to be addressed
Esperon said the President provided guidance in addressing the challenges and limitations faced by government units on the ground in dealing with the communist movement.
"He (Duterte) further stressed the need to focus on conflict-prone communities, as he called on those present to ensure that the roots of the communist insurgency would be addressed through enhanced programs and harmonized efforts in providing for basic needs such as housing, water, education, and health," he said.
The National Security Adviser noted that nearly 400 government executives attended the joint command conference.
He said participants were Cabinet members; the Cabinet Officers for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) and their government consultants; heads of the Regional Development Councils and Regional Peace and Order Councils; and, the top brass and senior commanders of the AFP and the PNP.
"President Duterte called the special joint meeting to call the entire government to action in finally putting an end to the atrocities of the Communist Terrorist Group," he said.
"The participants acknowledged that the President, through his unrelenting commitment to bring change to the lives of Filipinos, had provided an enabling environment for the NTF-ELCAC operationalization," Esperon added.
The CPP-NPA has been tagged as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.
To achieve the President's goal of ending local communist armed conflict, Esperon said the Retooled Community Support Program is now being implemented in areas with vulnerable populations to ensure the improved delivery of basic services.
Esperon added that the government's milestone programs such as free tertiary education, free irrigation, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, universal health care program, ease of doing business, "Build, Build, Build" infrastructure program, and intensified implementation of land reform have enhanced the living conditions of the Filipino people.
"This underscores the thrust of Executive Order 70 in placing good governance, through the whole-of-nation approach, at the center of the government's campaign against communist armed conflict," he said.
"By his (Duterte) staunch drive against corruption and for the passage of fundamental policy reforms and laws that address the root causes of armed conflict, the business of governance was made easier and more efficient," Esperon stressed.
Duterte wants 'greater' participation
Esperon said the NTF-ELCAC has so far organized 17 regional task forces led by the CORDS, while the local chief executives have led the provincial, municipal or city, and village task forces.
He said 12 Clusters or Lines of Efforts have also been organized to support the NTF-ELCAC at all levels.
Focused military operations, as well as delivery of basic services and infrastructure and provision of livelihood projects, have been launched in insurgency-affected villages, Esperon added.
Esperon said the Commander-in-Chief closed the session by prodding local governments for "greater" participation in the NTF-ELCAC for future generations.
"Through the combined efforts both at the national and regional levels, thousands of rebels have returned to the folds of the law," he said.