Taskforce against CPP-NPA eyes CAR as model

BAGUIO CITY — The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is considering the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) as its model in its campaign against the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

“We want CAR to be the model especially very small na lang ang security threats,” said National Security Council (NSC) deputy director-general Vicente Agdamag.

The NSC official explained that there are few security threats left in CAR, noting that most of the things they need to address are on infrastructure development and delivery of social service.

“What we need here ay mga services, yung social services, infra projects, yung mga eskwelahan, yung mga health services, mga farm to market roads,” he said.

According to him, there is sufficient budget for all the social programs of the government in the region.

Agdamag made the pronouncement during a media briefing on the sidelines of the workshop of the NTF-ELCAC’s regional counterpart.

The commander of the 5th Infantry Division of the Army Maj. Gen. Pablo Lorenzo, said that they have already identified focused areas and set their timeline.

“We will be discussing that in the workshops to validate what we have planned in our respective agencies. This will be brought to the inter-agency meeting for everybody to get involved. Down to the barangays’ specific needs as the result of the community support program operations we conducted, to the funding and the timeline of implementation,” he clarified.

“Peace zones” for review. National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., who was also at the briefing, said that there is a need to review the concept of peace zones.

“We want to believe that it should not be peace zones or peace areas that should be created ire-revisit natin ngayon kasi ang nangyayari naman ay hindi na makapasok ang police and military, ganyan din ang nangyari sa Mindanao,” he said.

Esperon, who is the second in command of the NTF-ELCAC, explained that peace zone terms should allow the government to continue its delivery of services and conduct law enforcement activities.

Lorenzo added that while they will honor the declarations but will look into possible mechanism and systems that will prevent communist rebels from taking advantage of it.

Sagada is the most notable local government that has utilized the concept of “peace zone” in the region. It called for all armed groups to leave and for the removal of detachments, and prohibition to carry arms. It also appealed that no armed skirmishes should transpire within its territory.

The declaration stemmed from the situation and events that transpired in the late ‘80s when the town experienced intensive military deployment, with soldiers occupying public facilities such as schools and dap-ays. In October 1988, drunk soldiers from the 50th IB shot a kid and a teenager at the town center. Then the following month, another child died during a firefight near Bomabanga Central School between rebels and
government forces.

CPLA not included. The officials clarified that groups, which sprung from the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA), are not included in the campaign.

Lorenzo said that the government has already delivered its responsibility, integrating about 700 members of the CPLA in the Armed Forces and employing 800-900 as members of the Civilian Armed Auxiliary forces. Another 400 members received livelihood packages under the Payapa and Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana), the government’s peace and development program. The officials said that CPLA is no longer a threat to security, noting that they are always in contact with the group especially in Abra, which declared their support for the initiatives of the government.