New budget for anti-insurgency program sought

The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has asked President Rodrigo Duterte to release new funds for an anti-insurgency program that seeks to end communism in villages nationwide, MalacaAang said on Tuesday.

The request for a new budget for the Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP) was made by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperson Jr., who concurrently serves as NTF-ELCAC vice-chairperson, during the 45th Cabinet meeting held at MalacaAan Palace on Monday night, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

Panelo, however, failed to mention the exact amount the NTF-ELCAC sought for the continued implementation of RCSP.

"Secretary Hermogenes Esperon, the vice-chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, asked for a budget to sustain the Retooled Community Support Program which would provide for the barangay development package for communist insurgency-cleared and threatened barangays nationwide," Panelo said in a statement.

"The barangay development package may be given depending on the need of target barangays which may include, but is not limited to, farm-to-market roads, water systems, health stations, school buildings, and livelihood programs, he added.

RCSP is the government's primary program that intends to combat the activities of the communist terrorist groups.

RCSP also aims to address identified issues of the community by implementing programs, projects, and activities that will put an end to governance and development gaps and will promote sustainable peace and development.

In line with the President's goal of ending local communist armed conflict, RCSP is being implemented in areas with vulnerable populations to ensure the improved delivery of basic services, Esperon earlier said.

On Nov. 23, 2017, Duterte formally shelved the peace talks between state peace negotiators and consultants of Communist Party of the Philippines's (CPP) political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF), through the issuance of Proclamation 360.

Proclamation 360 states that the CPP, NDF, and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), failed to show sincerity in pursuing "genuine and meaningful" peaceful negotiations, despite the "best efforts" exerted by the Duterte administration.

The President also signed on Dec. 5, 2017, proclamation 374, which brands the CPP-NPA as a terror organization. The CPP-NPA has also been tagged as a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

On Dec. 4, 2018, however, Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) 70, which institutionalizes the whole-of-nation approach that will be implemented by the NTF-ELCAC, in a bid to attain "inclusive and sustainable peace."

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. on Monday said the communist insurgents should first walk their talk before the peace negotiations between the government and the NDF can resume.

Galvez issued the statement, as he condemned the NPA rebels' three separate attacks in Surigao del Sur on Dec. 3 last year, in Compostela Valley on Dec. 30, and in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon on Jan. 4 this year.

The communist-initiated attacks came despite the implementation of holiday ceasefire, which took effect on Dec. 23, 2019, and will end at 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 7, 2020.

On Dec. 31, the President renewed his intent to talk with CPP founder Jose Maria Sison without the presence of a peace panel from both the national government and the NDF.

Panelo, on Jan. 2, said Sison, who has been in self-exile in the Netherlands since 1987, should seize the opportunity to hold a one-on-one meeting with Duterte so they would have the chance to discuss the possible revival of peace talks.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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