TACLOBAN CITY – Mayor Aran Boller of Matuguinao, a former rebel-infested town in Samar, on Tuesday said the national government should look into the sincerity of local government unit (LGU) officials in fighting the New People’s Army (NPA) in their communities.
Reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, Boller said the national government will only be able to fully address the root causes of insurgency if local governments have the political will.
“There should be a system to make local governments accountable if they are not serious in the fight against insurgency. Even if the central government is making double efforts to build safe and conflict-resilient villages, if local governments are not committed, we will not achieve lasting peace,” Boller said in a phone interview.
“I feel that the President is sincere in fighting NPA, but this commitment should be matched with efforts of local officials,” he added.
In his sixth and final SONA, Duterte said the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has resolved the root causes of the communist armed conflict in the country.
“With the creation of the National Task Force to End [Local] Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-ELCAC, we have made great strides in addressing the root causes of this conflict by empowering our kababayans (countrymen) who have been used by the communists for so many decades,” he said.
Efforts of the local task force ELCAC have led to the surrender of over 300 NPA fighters and their die-hard supporters in Matuguinao town between 2019 to 2021.
“All of our 12 conflict-stricken villages are now cleared with no sightings of armed rebels in the past six months. I hope the national government agencies will be consistent in delivering services and the army should regularly conduct patrol in these communities or else the NPA will come back to extort food from residents,” Boller told the Philippine News Agency.
Each of these 12 villages is eligible to receive the PHP20 million under the Barangay Development Program in 2022 to finance farm-to-market roads, water and sanitation system, health stations, school buildings, assistance to poor families, and livelihood training assistance.
The weakening of NPA in Samar is a result of a whole-of-nation approach by linking arms between basic service providers from the central government, community participation groups from the local governments, and the security sector from the military and police.
In support of the fight against NPA, several local government units have formed their task force ELCAC operationalizing Executive Order 70 issued by Duterte on Dec. 4, 2018.
The directive also institutionalizes a “whole-of-nation approach” in attaining an inclusive and sustainable peace.
The Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)