In his speech, to open the Summit National Security Adviser and Director General of the National Security Council Hermogenes Esperon Jr related why President Rodrigo Roa Duterte terminated the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines - New Peoples's Army - National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and how the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict was created.
"Let me just give you a background why in November 2017 the President terminated the peace talks with NDF. There were attempts to revive the peace talks. But the President found out that they were proposing for a coalition government, meaning the National Democratic Front and the CPP-NPA will play a role in running government. Because of that, the President said, I cannot give you the mandate given to me by the people in the elections, and therefore, definitely, there will be no more talks if that is your wishes,”Esperon said.
“Some events that led to the formation or creation of the National Task Force [to End Local Communist Armed Conflict]... We all know that at the onset of the administration, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte went for a national peace talks with the National Democratic Front, Communist Party of the Philippines, and New People’s Army. He even showed his sincerity by appointing several members of the National Democratic Front to his Cabinet,” Esperon added.
"Instead, they went on their usual activities of attacking communities, attacking construction companies, and exacting illegally from businesses and from small people," he said.
“Unfortunately, the peace talks could not move on because of, for one, they on their side would not agree to a cessation of hostilities or ceasefire, unilateral or bilateral,” he clarified.
"And so, because of their insincerity, the President declared in Nov. 2017 a termination of the national peace talks," he said.
President Duterte, by virtue of Proclamation No. 360 signed on Nov. 23, 2017, declared the termination of peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF.
Government then focused on establishing mechanisms for local peace engagements, negotiations, or interventions, and the National Task Force to End Local Government Armed Conflict was born through Executive Order 70 in December 2018.
"It went on, we designated the CORDS, (Cabinet Officers for Regional Development and Security) the Regional Task Forces were formed, and we went to the provinces, and regions, and today we have all the regions organized," Esperon said, adding that, "Aside from the regions, many have come up with the provincial task forces, and many have gone down to the municipal, towns, as well as barangays."
“What we are having actually is the Luzon Summit meaning this is the meeting that gathers all the regional task forces in Luzon, eight of them, as we assess we are now,” he added.
Esperon said their current engagements went as far as sending a delegation of indigenous peoples to Europe and the United States in order to belie the twisted narratives that government has been committing atrocious acts against their sector and interact with the Filipino community and foreign government officials there.
Meanwhile, among the highlights of the Summit include the presentation of accomplishments and challenges of the eight Luzon Regional Task Forces to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. The results were then synthesized by Regional Development Council-NCR and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairperson Danilo Delapuz Lim.
Among these are the conduct of: thorough assessment of existing security threats, anti-insurgency awareness campaigns, speaker and messenger trainings, job fairs in NPA-affected communities, skills and employment training for stakeholders including former rebels, and the construction of road networks to far flung areas of Luzon and key areas to boost economic activities, among others.
“Today, we have witnessed the hard work of the Regional Task Forces ELCAC,” Lim said.
For the National Capital Region, Lim reported that the region has strengthened its community support program, and capacitated urban communities for peace and development, while at the same time, enhancing its inter-agency coordination.
“In line with the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Joint Communiqué on Aug. 5, 2017, which reaffirms the importance and effectiveness of the whole-of-nation approach as opposed to a purely military strategy,” Lim stressed.
“Our Chief Executive has called all of us into action. A convergence of the government at all levels, civil society, and the private sector,” Lim said.
It can be recalled that the CPP-NPA have for decades posed and positioned themselves as a revolutionary organization that will liberate the masses from a thoughtless and abusive government which they portray in their one-sided reports and fabricated facts and propaganda.
In response, Executive Order 70 issued by President Duterte, also known as the whole-of-nation approach in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, is aimed to end local communist armed conflict through the creation of a national task force and regional task forces that will take the lead in institutionalizing a national peace framework and promote inclusive governance.
In Oct. 10, six RTF–ELCAC in Mindanao gathered in Cagayan De Oro City to address gaps and ensure the sustainability of efforts in solving the insurgency problem in Mindanao.
The RTF-ELCAC summit will be conducted in Visayas this month and the results of the summits will be presented to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the National Summit.
For his part, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, the host CORDS said, “right now, we are on track to put an end on this rebellious outbreak of insurgencies by institutionalizing a whole-of-nation approach through our inclusive ways of non-armed approach and governance with the communist terrorists.”
“Our program such as improving the flow of basic needs and services, elevating the human and social aspects, and faster pace of communication, develops a synchronized and smarter community to conflict-affected areas, which spurs the growth of our institutions,” Villar added.
“So I strongly believe that communication and social inclusion is a key factor in attaining of peace in Luzon and the rest of the country,” he said.
Those who attended the Luzon-wide Summit for Peace and Development with the CORDS or Cabinet Officers for Regional Development and Security held at the Philippine International Convention Center were Public Works Secretary Mark Villar (Host CORDS-National Capital Region), National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. (CORDS-Region 1), Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello II (CORDS-Region 2), Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Francisco Villano Jr who represented Secretary William Dar (CORDS-CAR), Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Reconciliation and Unity Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (CORDS-Region 3), Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año (CORDS-CALABARZON), Department of Energy Undersecretary Alexander Lopez who stood in for Secretary Alfonso Cusi (CORDS-MIMAROPA), and Presidential Adviser for Bicol Affairs Marvel Clavecilla for Information and Communication Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan II (CORDS-Region 5).
Present also during the event were NTF ELCAC executive director and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Chair Secretary Allen Capuyan, who brought with him members of the indigenous peoples, who all have stories to tell about how each suffered by the hands of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army.
Local Chief Executives also participated in the Summit, among them are Parañaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez, Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba, La Union Governor Francisco Ortega III, Zambales Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., Marinduque Governor Presbitero Velasco Jr., Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong.
The CORDS have been delegated by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to oversee in their regions the peace and development efforts and assist in the prompt and orderly resolution of problems in government operations. (PIA-NCR)
By Jerome Carlo R. Paunan