MANILA – The harmonized efforts of government agencies under the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has significantly curbed the influence of the communist movement in Northern Mindanao, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., said on Friday.
“But may I report, Mr. President (Rodrigo Duterte), that for 2019 and 2020, our security forces backed by government agencies and the private sector all harmonized under NTF-ELCAC have dismantled three guerilla (fronts) in this region; and 196 barangays were cleared from the influence of the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA),” Esperon said during the joint meeting of the NTF-ELCAC and Regional Task Force (RTF) ELCAC in Cagayan de Oro City.
Present in the meeting was President Rodrigo R. Duterte along with RTF ELCAC 10 chair, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar, and other ranking government officials.
Esperon, meanwhile, lauded the RTF ELCAC 10 for expediting developments that will help prevent communist terrorists from recruiting and operating in Northern Mindanao through embarking early on convergence areas for development (CAPDev).
“Through the CAPDev system of RTF 10, funds that were already available in 2019 and funds from the General Appropriations Act of 2020 were brought to these conflicted barangays to the tune of PHP17 billion,” he added.
Conflicted barangays or those with high poverty rates or geographically isolated and disadvantaged are targeted by the CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front (NDF) for recruitment.
Land reform, irrigation, education
“If we include the infrastructure projects that benefited the regions and provinces in general, ‘completed projects reached PHP44 billion’ in 2019 up to 2021. Among the projects going to the barangays are projects of the President on land reform, free irrigation, and free education,” Esperon said.
In line with this, 6,500 hectares were distributed to 5,755 agrarian reform beneficiaries; of which there will be 250 more recipients by April.
He added that 64 percent of the land programmed under agrarian reform now has irrigation.
“May I also report that there are now 75,200 students in state universities and colleges enjoying free tuition. And line agencies in the region continue to bring developments to the barangays,” he added.
The Department of Agriculture, he said, has released about PHP800 million per province for 2021 on Friday.
The Department of Labor and Employment has committed to providing 100 jobs to every barangay in the region.
“Secretary (Silvestre) Bello (III) has committed to giving 100 employment per barangay na nandito ngayon (that are here), Sir, and they will earn PHP4,000. Kinwenta niya (he computed), PHP54 million. Thank you, Secretary Bello for the employment,” Esperon added.
“TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) (has) released PHP30 million; many agencies are here to commit E-CLIP (Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program) Dalawang returnees, may bahay sila na example, Sir. (There are) 250 houses pero dalawa lang iyong pumunta rito (Two returnees already have their own houses. There are 250 house owners now but only two are here). Fisheries projects, farm-to-market roads by DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) were awarded here or presented as completed,” he said.
Esperon also reported programs coming from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that includes its national greening project and the Department of Education’s two-story eight classroom buildings.
Also included were various projects from the Department of Information and Communications Technology, Department of Trade and Industry; Department of Science and Technology, and Fiber Development.
Barangay Development Program
“Mr. President, today, we have the barangay captains who are beneficiaries of the Barangay Development Program which is the program for conflicted areas that the President approved in a Cabinet meeting in 2020,” Esperon said.
“I recall, pardon, Sir, for revealing this, that you wanted to start the program immediately but Covid-19 came in kaya nagkaroon ng (so there was a) delay. But today, we have the funds for the Barangay Development Program for 822 barangays which were under NPA influence but cleared in 2016 to 2019,” he added.
Esperon said 119 barangay captains from Region 10 were also present Friday to symbolically receive the projects.
“These barangays will receive PHP20 million each, PHP20 million, for farm-to-market roads, classrooms, electrifications, health stations, water systems, and communal irrigations. And the other agencies will bring in projects not only to these cleared barangays but also to the other barangays,” he added.
Apart from the Philippines, the Communist Party of the Philippines – NPA has also been declared as a terror organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. (PNA)