Task force to ‘end’ insurgency launched in Soccsksargen

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KORONADAL CITY — Government agencies, military and law enforcement units, and local governments in Region 12 (Soccsksargen) have joined hands to pursue more aggressive peace and development initiatives to address the communist insurgency in the region.

Members of the Regional Development Council (RDC) and the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) of Soccsksargen convened here Thursday to 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 Soccsksargen, led the first-ever organizational meeting of the task force “to immediately set it running on the ground.”

Piñol, who was joined by National Security Council Deputy Director General Damian Carlos, said the creation of the RTF-ELCAC is in line the efforts of the national government’s “whole-of-nation” approach in addressing communist insurgency.

The new governance approach, based on Executive Order 70 of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, seeks to bring together all government agencies to achieve peace and development in the countryside by maximizing the use of government resources.

Piñol said the meeting sought to 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 the 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 some PHP3.24 billion funding this year for its priority programs and projects, and PHP1.26 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 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 NPA-affected village, for example, he said the Department of Agriculture may fund the construction of a farm-to-market road and provide necessary machinery to improve the livelihood of the people.

“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.” (PNA)