NTF-ELCAC in 2023 – the year at a glance

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

Last Wednesday, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC ) invited all existing, or what remains to be what is left of rebels from the New People’s Army (NPA ), to surrender and begin a new chapter in their lives as they enter the new year.

The NTF-ELCAC has further committed itself to its mandate to free all communities that are affected by local communist armed conflict and urge rebels to lay down their arms, renounce their current way of life and surrender peacefully to the government and become law abiding citizens capable of participating in nation building.

In a statement, AFP spokesman Col. Medel Aguilar said that the underground movement is no longer capable of implementing programs that will enable it to recruit new members, generate resources and establish a united front to overthrow the government. Such development, as expressed by Aguilar, should convince remaining guerrillas to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law.

As a result of the military’s “focused military operations,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines announced the elimination of active NPA guerrilla fronts in the country. As of last December, being the final month of year 2023, it has been reported that there are no more active CTG guerrilla fronts as the continued operations have resulted in the neutralization of 67 high-value individuals who belong to communist and local terrorist groups as explained by AFP public affairs office chief Col. Xerxes Trinidad.

It goes without saying, therefore, and as expressed by the NTF-ELCAC, that the NPA is now on the run and that the peace process will not put off the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict from intensifying its efforts in bringing the government closer to the geographically-isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAS) by bringing in the Barangay Development Program (BDP), the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) which is a DILG administered package of assistance to former rebels, as well as sustainable livelihood projects, most especially to former rebels who have peacefully surrendered.

Also in December of last year, the Philippine National Police destroyed a total of 178 firearms surrendered by former rebels which consisted of 117 long firearms, 36 short firearms, 13 crew-served weapons and 12 sub-machine guns. The number of firearms coming from former rebels in Agusan del Sur totaled to a hundred, while 49 firearms came from Surigao del Norte and 29 from Agusan del Norte.

As part of its mission, the NTF-ELCAC will continue to institute the Local Peace Engagement (LPE) in the pursuit of genuine peace in the localities, especially conflict-affected and conflict-vulnerable communities through necessary community consultations and problem solving sessions.

As a year-end statement, Usec Ernesto Torres Jr., executive director of the NTF-ELCAC, expressed how the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict has served as a beacon of both resilience and progress, where peace and security remain at the heart of the NTF-ELCAC’s mission.

Looking back at 2023, dialogue and understanding, as expressed by Usec. Torres, has opened doors for communities where trust building has been pivotal for the NTF-ELCAC as it has empowered them to bring progress to remote areas where infrastructure development has been a cornerstone to their mission, including my personal favorite, new avenues for education and wellness.

Dedicated to fostering peace, the NTF-ELCAC has been devoted to fostering conflict resolution where, as relayed by Usec. Torres in his message, adversaries have now become allies, where every Filipino has a stake in our shared future. Looking forward to the NTF-ELCAC’s continued success for peace and security in 2024.

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