BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — At the rate of nationwide surrender of communist guerrillas, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is confident that the government can end the New People’s Army’s (NPA) “reign of terror” within President Duterte’s term.
During the Kapihan sa Ilocos on Tuesday, NTF-ELCAC vice chairman and Secretary Hermogenes Esperon said they could achieve the President’s deadline of ending the communist terrorist group based on the rate “tired” NPA combatants are surrendering.
“It’s self-imposed and the President, because he is the chairman of the NTF-ELCAC. He wants to finish the NPA by July 2022. In my estimate from their current strength of about 3,500, I think it will go down. Many have been surrendering,” Esperon said.
The NTF-ELCAC is following a timeline but he also knows that there would still be some supporters and several issues to be solved by the next administration, Esperon, also the national security adviser, said.
The NSA chief said he particularly liked the President’s view on insurgency, which can only be solved through a “whole-of-a-nation” approach and not by military force alone.
He added that the focus of the NTF-ELCAC’s Barangay Development Program (BDP) is to bring development to former conflict-prone communities ravaged by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
He cited the BDP’s programs and projects for each recipient barangay – P20 million broken down into a one-kilometer farm-to-market road worth P12 million, classrooms (P3 million), water and sanitation systems (P2 million), a health station (P1.5 million) and livelihood projects (P1.5 million).
Mindanao received many of the projects because of the huge number of CPP-NPA-NDF in the provinces, Esperon said.
“Most of the projects are concetrated in 822 Mindanao barangays. BDP’s next phase will be concentrated in Region 5 with 542 barangays, Region 6 with 193, Region 8, Samar and Leyte with 319,” he added.
“We most of all need the projects for the barangays, especially those that are geographically isolated and depressed and disadvantaged areas and those that are conflict affected. And this is the solution for the 52 going on 53 years problem,” Esperon said. – Roel Pareño