Unity, Peace and Progress – CORDS for CAR and DA Secretary William Dar (Top left) and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon (Lower left) join the Cordillera RTF-ELCAC in cascading national and regional efforts in eradicating communist terrorist groups in CAR

The Cordillera Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) spearheaded the conduct of a series of Provincial Levelling Sessions to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in the Cordillera Administrative Region. The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG-CAR) facilitated the four legs: May 19 in Abra; May 20 in Apayao and Kalinga; May 26 in Baguio City and Benguet; and May 27 in Ifugao and Mountain Province. 

Key officials from the national and regional task forces along with representatives from the different regional line agencies, local government units, civil society organizations, private sectors, and barangay officials of the Cordillera region participated in the levelling sessions.

The levelling sessions aimed to harmonize local efforts to support the national actions in completely eliminating the scourge of communist terrorist groups (CTGs) in the country. They showed the brief history and faces of local insurgencies including an in-depth knowledge on the strategies of the CPP-NPA-NDF in propagating their ideology which impacted on the country’s economy and the lives of the people. 

According to the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), the youth, being vulnerable and easy to manipulate, are usually the ones being recruited by the CTGs with false promises of scholarships and higher education.

Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) for CAR and DA Secretary William D. Dar, in his keynote speech, acknowledged the continuous support and cooperation of the provincial and local task forces in the implementation of the E.O. 70 in the region for inclusive peace and sustainable progress. He added that the collaborative efforts of the national and regional stakeholders have generated lessons and milestones that brought about several accomplishments in the fight against insurgency.

RTF-ELCAC Vice-Chairperson and Abra Governor Maria Jocelyn V. Bernos enjoined the participants not to be persuaded by the misguided ideology and so-called help from the CTGs for them to have the opportunity to strike in the guise of good deeds. She said that the participants especially from the barangays should continue to strive and help the government’s efforts for peace and development in their locality.

Majority of the barangays asked about the Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP), which aims to spur economic development in former conflict areas.  Under the 2021 SBDP, an amount of Php 160M was allocated to CAR for eight pilot insurgency-free barangays located in Abra, Kalinga, and Mountain Province.

As a result of the series of levelling sessions, the following strategies were agreed upon, among others: continuous capacity building for LGUs and P’HUC TFs ELCAC (especially on development plan formulation), monitoring of the implementation of projects funded under the SBDP, conduct of regular meetings to tackle the issues and concerns of LGUs/sectors regarding ELCAC/EO 70, alignment or harmonization of priorities with the National and Local Task Forces, implementation of the phases of the RCSP, strengthening the convergence and inter-agency partnership and coordination, intensifying information campaigns to counter the deceptive propaganda machinery of the CTGs, and intensifying awareness campaign on government programs, projects, and activities.  

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) was created through the Executive Order No. 70, series of 2018. Currently, DILG-CAR, NEDA-CAR and DA-CAR serve as the tripartite technical secretariat of the RTF-ELCAC.

By Bob Lyndon B. Daroya