Security forces in Negros Occidental have emphasized the importance of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) in the battle against insurgency, with multiple agencies working together to implement a whole-of-nation approach to achieve the goal.
Under the NTF-ELCAC’s Barangay Development Program (BDP), 26 insurgency-cleared communities in Negros Occidental, including one in Bacolod City, each got a P20 million grant.
Capt. Kim Apitong, public affairs officer-in-charge of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID), which also covers Negros Island, stressed on Thursday that BDP-funded development projects are now being implemented in these villages, particularly in Escalante City, Negros Occidental.
“The BDP of the NTF-ELCAC largely contributes to the campaign against insurgency and in attaining peace,” he said.
The northern city of Escalante holds the most villages free of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) control in the province, with a total of 14.
Among the many other projects they are receiving under the BDP, seven of these barangays received agricultural tractors worth P20.695 million last month.
The communities’ initiatives, including farm-to-market roads and agricultural equipment, are determined by the locals, according to Apitong.
“War is not just the solution to the insurgency. Government agencies work together to address the needs of these barangays. The whole-of-nation approach has a huge impact on this. Everyone is involved, not only us in combat operations,” he added.
The NTF-ELCAC has been a tremendous help to the former insurgency-affected barangays, said 1st Lt. Dansan Camua, civil-military operations officer of the 79th Infantry Battalion based in northern Negros, adding the whole-of-nation approach is the key to bringing development to these places.
“If EO 70 will not be sustained, we will go back to zero,” he said.
Camua noted that a number of CPP-NPA members and combatants have already surrendered as a result of its implementation, as well as the dismantling of multiple guerrilla fronts.
The 79IB played a key role in the demolition of the NPA’s Northern Negros Front earlier this year, but with communist-terrorist remnants attempting to reclaim their region, the troops are countering their terroristic operations with long-term efforts led by the NTF-ELCAC.
The BDP funds, according to Camua, are not used for military operations and instead go directly to the barangays for development projects.
“If the (NTF-ELCAC) will not be supported and abolished, armed groups would really return to these villages,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (NOCPPO) has been working with advocacy support groups to help promote the NTF-ELCAC’s activities in local communities, according to Lt. Abegael Donasco, a spokesperson for the NOCPPO.
“We have joint activities with the Philippine Army. The local government units also support these activities. We have seen the benefits brought by the NTF-ELCAC,” she added.
The BDP is the NTF-ELCAC’s hallmark program, with the ultimate goal of bringing development to previously conflict-prone communities.
Each insurgency-cleared barangay or those formerly established as CPP-NPA guerilla fronts has been allotted P20 million under the BDP to rehabilitate and develop these areas.
NTF-ELCAC was established by President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) 70.