DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines–Obviously not treating the insurgency problem in Negros Oriental lightly three cabinet secretaries have arrived in this city yesterday, Wednesday, August 14, 2019.
All three who deals with security and defense concerns, Interior and Local Goverment Secretary Eduardo Ano, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon attended the formal launching of the Negros Oriental Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NOTF-ELCAC) at the Negros Oriental Convention Center.
ELCAC as contained in Executive Order 70 by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte lays down a holistic approach to end the insurgency problem but prior to its launching Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo has told the newly assumed Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (NOPPO) Director Col. Rizalito Gapas to act head on against the New Peoples Army (NPA) in their province.
Gapas who replaced Col. Raul Tacaca was told not to repeat an incident where policemen were killed in an anti-insurgency campaign.
“And also in our fight for insurgency, let’s fight head on with the NPA’s. Dili na pud ko ganahan nga naay usa nga mamatay (i don’t like that one would die again) in our fight against insurgency. Please be assured of my continued support. Let us be one and let us fight hard,” Degamo said in his speech at the Camp Francisco Fernandez in Sibulan town, the NOPPO headquarters.
In the ELCAC launching Sec. Ano explained the hard and soft approach in the insurgency problem.
The hard approach is the police and military approach to combat armed rebels while the soft approach are the projects of government agencies like the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP) to those who want to return to the folds of the law.
Ano bared that under the ELCAC, a localized peace-talks can be done to end the problem in a certain area.
“Those who wanted talks there would be localized peace engagement where our local peace and order in the province would have local peace panel to talk to the armed group that would like to engage in peace,” Ano said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Lorenzana is optimistic that ELCAC would be the winning strategy against the insurgency problem as he recalls how President Duterte, the ELCAC national chairman, likened insurgency to a plane that can not fly smoothly as it has a heavy load which he refers to as the Communist Party of the Philippines- New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA).
“I think we finally come up with the winning strategy. I’ve been listening to the speeches of the President from the very beginning, he likened our country to a plane that can not take off because of the heavy load,
Esperon for his part emphasized that ELCAC is a civilian led approach against the insurgency problem as the military and police is just among the several clusters that were created to address the issue.
“The military and police is just one cluster and we call that the peace, law enforcement and military operations cluster. Only one of the twelve clusters and so you see its really civilian led,” Esperon said.
Responding in behalf of Armed Forces Chief of Staff Benjamin Madrigal, Central Command chief, Lt. Gen. Noel Clement called for unity in the attainment of the goals of ELCAC.
“Let us continue to unite and work towards the same goal for the growth and progress and lasting peace in Negros Oriental, “Clement said.
Central Visayas Police Regional Director Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas who spoke in behalf of PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde assured everybody that the entire police force of the region is fully supporting NOTF-ELCAC.
“In behalf of our Chief PNP Police Director General Oscar Albayalde and the whole members of Team PRO7 we pledge our full support and cooperation in the implemenation of the Negros Oriental Task Force ELCAC. Laumi ninyo nga ang tanang polis sa Team PRO7 ay kauban sa tanan nga oras ug mga buluhaton arun maabot nato ang maayo ug ika progreso sa Negros Oriental ug ibuok Pilipinas (Rest assured that all the police in Team PRO7 will be with you all the time in all your endeavors for the good and progress of Negros Oriental and the entire Philiplines), Sinas emphatically said.
President Duterte earlier hinted of imposing martial law in Negros Oriental because of the series of killings that included four policemen in the province but did not pursue it as the situation in the area has already normalized.
As part of the ELCAC, the administration of Degamo also launched the “Dagyawan sa Barangay sa Negros Oriental ( Togetherness in the Barangays in Negros Oriental), their grassroots approach to finally end the insurgency problem in the province./AAJ