KORONADAL CITY, South Cotabato – Secretary Isidro S. Lapeña, Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) for SOCCSKSARGEN Region, together with the officials of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) XII, namely: Director Rafael Y. Abrogar, II of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) XII, Director Josephine F. Cabrido-Leysa of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) XII, Director Teresita Socorro C. Ramos of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) XII, Director Eduardo T. Marquez of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) XII, attended the National Task Force’s Mindanao Inter-regional Convergence Meeting on June 25, 2020.

It was the first online conference meeting of the officials of the NTF and all the RTF officials and the CORDS of Mindanao. Among the attendees were NTF vice-chairperson and National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexi B. Nograles, Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado, Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Joselito D. Bautista, and NTF-ELCAC Secretariat Executive Director Secretary Allen A. Capuyan.

During the meeting, Secretary Esperon reiterated President Duterte’s statement that the biggest threat to the country is the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG). He also emphasized that Mindanao has the most organized CTG command as compared to other parts of the country. The CTGs’ atrocities in various forms and recruitment efforts continue, he said, particularly the conduct of mass works in Cotabato Province.

The accomplishments of the RTFs in Mindanao, include the dismantling of guerrilla fronts, Pulang Bagani commands, silencing of propaganda machineries (e.g. exposure of media outlets, legitimate businesses, and closure of recruitment hubs), denial of resource generation, isolation of Revolutionary Base Areas, constriction to inter-regional boundaries, various initiatives of RTFs, among others.

For SOCCSKSARGEN Region, Director Abrogar presented the highlights of RTF-ELCAC XII accomplishments under the leadership of CORDS Lapeña. Included were the actions on the issue of overlapping land tenurial instruments and Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) in Sultan Kudarat, the intensified implementation of the Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP), the conduct of Serbisyo Caravans in the priority barangays in the province of Cotabato, harmonized peace and development efforts, launching of projects TALA (TESDA Alay ay Liwanag at Asenso) and IPEACE (Indigenous People Empowered as Agripreneurs towards a Collective End). Also, training of farmers to develop IP communities into food production sites, in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture (DA) XII, and institutionalization of communication strategy.

Despite the triumphs in the region, Director Abrogar also noted that challenges remain in fighting the communist insurgency as the CTG’s atrocities continue in some areas. The CTG influence in the community still remains, the public’s limited awareness on its legal front organizations, and the COVID19 pandemic as it curtails the full-scale implementation of RTF-ELCAC XII initiatives, are among the challenges. He further emphasized that winning the battle against CTG is the key for sustainable development in the region. “The victory of RTF-ELCAC XII in fighting the communist insurgency in SOCCSKSARGEN Region will be a great leap in attaining just and lasting peace and ensuring security, public order, and safety of the region, as embodied in the Regional Development Plan and the Philippine Development Plan. This is a vital step in realizing the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and in attaining the AmBisyon Natin 2040, not only in Region 12, but in the entire country”, Abrogar said.

Salient agreements reached by the RTFs in Mindanao are: (1) the integration of indigenous peoples’ (IPs) situation by winning the hearts and minds of cultural minorities to combat the presence and influence of CTG in the IP communities, as suggested by Secretary Capuyan; and (2) the recognition of the IP structure, confirming the certificate of ancestral land titles (CALTs) and certificate of ancestral domain titles (CADTs), and cascading government’s development support through the RCSP, as suggested by Secretary Lapeña. The meeting was concluded with a commitment by every RTF to expedite the delivery of government services to the people and to end the insurgency in Mindanao before the term of the Duterte Administration expires. (Jose Anthony Laurent P. Octavio, NEDA XII-PFPD)