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Localized peace engagement to continue under Marcos administration

CAMP AGUINALDO, QUEZON CITY – The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) confirmed on Friday that localized peace talks will continue to be carried out under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“The local peace councils are the ones working. So, we continue on that level, in regard to the resumption of the national peace talks that is the call of the President,” said Dr. Clarita Carlos, National Security Adviser and NTF-ELCAC vice chairperson during a presscon following the task force’s first executive meeting under the Marcos administration.

In a statement issued by the NTF-ELCAC executive committee, it committed to implement interventions to ensure peace and development for all Filipinos under the new administration. 

The body also underscored the need to provide amnesty to members of the communist terrorist group (CTG) to prevent their resurgence, particularly in geographically challenged, isolated and disadvantaged areas. 

LPE is the way 

The executive committee likewise recommended the importance of using the whole-of nation approach in addressing the root causes of the decades-long armed conflict.

“We recommend the further commitment to implement and enhance programs of the NTF-ELCAC’s various clusters in public services, empowering local governments, strengthening partnerships with stakeholders, ensuring peace and law enforcement in the communities, providing tailored assistance to former rebels and former violent extremists and working towards genuine healing and reconciliation,” the committee said in its statement. 

According to Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., localized peace engagement (LPE) has been effective in resolving issues between the government and members of the rebel group.

“Kaya po nabuo ang NTF-ELCAC, [because] we already terminated the peace talks. Ongoing ang peace talks but localized,” Galvez noted.

The OPAPRU is the co-lead agency of the NTF ELCAC’s LPE Cluster which helps facilitate local peace dialogues at the community level. 

These dialogues have been effective in reaching out to the CTG members and encouraging them to return to the folds of the law. 

“Nakita natin halos lahat po ng ating mga kasamahan na front commanders ay bumababa na po at nagkaroon  na ng localized peace engagement which empowers the mayors, governors to pursue localized peace engagement because they know very well the negotiations,” Galvez said.

“The past 50 years, wala tayong nakuhang maganda sa national peace talks. Dito sa LPE, andun ‘yung goodwill, trust and confidence. We can see the authentic intentions of both parties to really come to peace,” he added.

Galvez also highlighted the effectiveness of NTF-ELCAC in promoting the principles of good governance among national line agencies and LGUs.

“The NTF-ELCAC is the best venue where good governance integration and collaboration of all agencies will be there. NTF-ELCAC is the solution in ending the communist terrorist group.” Galvez said.

President’s directive

Department of National Defense (DND) Officer-In-Charge Jose Faustino Jr. said the NTF-ELCAC has already received a directive from President Marcos for the body to continue its peacekeeping and peacebuilding work.

“Meron nang directive ang pangulo na ipagpatuloy natin itong NTF-ELCAC. So right now, itong kauna-unahang meeting na ito’y para malaman natin kung ano ang status niya ngayon dahil may bagong members tayo, at ipagpatuloy ang mga naumpisahan na at ‘yung mga napakalaking achievement na nagawa ng NTF-ELCAC ng nakaraang administrasyon,” Faustino said.

The NTF-ELCAC was established during the term of former President Rodrigo Duterte by virtue of Executive Order No. 70 that was issued in 2018. 

“Napakalaki na nang naidulot na kabutihan [NTF-ELCAC] pagdating sa kapayapaan. Kung mapapansin natin, ang mga violent incidents na ginagawa ng mga CPP-NPA-NDF ay bumaba,” Faustino pointed out.

All the parameters ay bumaba kasama ang kanilang strength, firearms at affected barangays, lalo na ang mga guerilla fronts. So, ito ay ipagpapatuloy natin. Kung meron mang pagbabago, ito ay para mas mapaganda o ma-enhance ang mga proseso ng NTF-ELCAC,” he added. 

Based on DND data, at least 26,414 CTG members have already surrendered as of May this year. Those who were eligible to receive government benefits were provided with housing, livelihood, medical and education assistance. 

The agency also reported that 47 of the 81 guerilla fronts operating in the country have already been neutralized. 

Also present during the NTF-ELCAC executive committee meeting were National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Chairperson Allen Capuyan, Asst. Solicitor General Angelita Miranda, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Andres Centino, Philippine National Police OIC Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao and DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya.

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