KORONADAL CITY, 08 May 2020 – The best way to counter terrorism is to provide the poor their most needed assistance, according to Secretary Isidro Lapeña.

Lapeña, the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS)  told members of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC-12)  that the “best way to counter misinformation perpetuated by Communist-Terrorist Groups (CTG) is to show concrete deeds through assistance to the disadvantaged kabayans.”

At the 7th meeting of the RLF-ELCAC which Lapeña convened through a video conferencing platform, the Secretary reported that the “CTG took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to malign government efforts through their deceitful propaganda.”

Hence, Lapeña stressed the need to intensify government efforts to assist those seriously affected by the pandemic as he specified the priority barangays of the Task Force.  Efforts will focus on food sufficiency, health and jobs for employment.

The Secretary also emphasized the need for a strategic development communication “to counter misinformation.”

At the meeting, representatives of the provinces of Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani reported on their respective accomplishments to end local communist armed conflict and efforts to combat COVID-19.

South Cotabato Province representative, Chris Fuentes, reported that they conducted area validation in the 13 priority barangays identified by the National Task Force ELCAC. This was done to identify issues and concerns of the residents so that government could address these.  

James Domini Labiano, representative of Cotabato Province LGU, said that they purchased the produce of vegetable farmers from far-flung areas, as well as those from local rice-millers, for relief goods distribution.

Melvin Ado of Sultan Kudarat Province added that they have identified one priority barangay and they are now finalizing their Economy Restart Plan in response to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For Sarangani Province, Gov. Steve C. Solon said there were 33 rebels who surrendered to the government in the past two months. This was due to the local government’s intensified communication to the residents in geographically isolated areas that “the main enemy is COVID-19”. 

Lapeña responded that this is exactly what RTF-ELCAC wants, that “without fighting, they [CTG] will go back to the folds of the law”.

Regional Line Agencies also presented their reports. Among them is Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA-12) Director Rafael Y. Abrogar, II, who presented Project TALA which stands for TESDA Alay ay Liwanag at Asenso.

The project would provide a 15-day Photovoltaic Systems (solar panel) Installation Training to 500 beneficiaries from 13 RTF-ELCAC priority barangays in the Region, Abrogar stressed. The trainees, from the 13 barangays, which do not have access to electricity, “will own and use the solar panels for their own houses,” he added.

Before the meeting ended, Lapeña instructed the members to continue moving despite the COVID-19 pandemic. He also reminded them to ensure that government services are felt by the people of the region.

The RTF-ELCAC-12 is composed of members of the Regional Development Council and the Regional Peace and Order Council in the region. Both councils are represented by 14 Local Chief Executives, 42 heads of Regional Line Agencies, 13 Private Sector Representatives, the chief of the Philippine National Police in Region 12, and Army commanders operating in the region. (Michael BJ S. Abellana, NEDA XII-DRD)