ANTI-NPA TEAM. Army officials join a meeting of the Eastern Visayas regional task force to end local communist armed conflict (ELCAC) at the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) office in Tacloban City on Feb. 17, 2020. The Philippine Army urged villages not affected by insurgency to consider creating their respective task forces for them not to be targeted for infiltration by the New People’s Army. (Photo courtesy of DILG)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Army has urged villages not affected by insurgency to consider creating their respective task forces to end local communist armed conflict (ELCAC) for them not to become targets for infiltration by the New People’s Army (NPA).

Maj. Gen. Pio Diñoso III, commander of the Philippine Army 8th Infantry Division, said since all conflict-stricken towns and villages have created their task force against armed struggle, the next move is to bring the campaign to other areas.

“Almost all areas in the region have created their task force. Those that have not organized are towns and villages without threats. They should form the task force because they are the next target if the NPA could not penetrate areas previously under their influence,” Diñoso told the Philippine News Agency.

He reported that all the six provinces and seven cities in the Eastern Visayas Region have created the task force ELCAC. Out of 136 towns, about 130 towns have organized the inter-agency team. The Army is still consolidating reports from villages.

Earlier, government forces have identified 100 villages, mostly in Samar and Northern Samar provinces as priority for the anti-insurgency drive.

“More villages have been organizing task force ELCAC. The challenge is to reach out to villages in island municipalities but we are happy to achieve even just 80 percent of areas,” Diñoso said.

Local task force ELCAC is expected to oversee the provision of an efficient mechanism in addressing the root causes of insurgencies and other armed conflicts through the delivery of basic services and packages by the government.

The formation of the task force operationalizes Executive Order 70 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 4, 2018. The directive also institutionalizes a “whole-of-nation approach” in attaining an inclusive and sustainable peace.

Patterned after the national and regional task forces, the local body is composed of heads of local offices of the departments of the Interior and Local Government, Justice, Defense, Public Works, Budget, Finance, Agrarian Reform, Social Welfare, and Education, as well as the military, police, local communication office, and private sector representatives.

At the village level, the task force is composed of members of the barangay peace and order council and community-based organizations. (PNA)