Senator Christopher Lawrence Go. (File photo)

TACLOBAN CITY – Senator Christopher Lawrence Go is hopeful that the next president will continue institutionalizing the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

In an online forum on Monday, Go said the program has convinced many New People's Army (NPA) rebels to abandon the communist terrorist group ideology.

“I hope that whatever projects and programs ELCAC has accomplished, the next administration will continue and make it even better,” he added.

The senator noted that the communist insurgency problem has been hounding the country for 53 years, the longest in Asia.

“The solution of this is not the peace talks conducted outside the country, but consultations in the community through ELCAC’s whole of nation approach,” Go said.

The ELCAC has gained the support of 1,715 cities, towns, and villages in the country. About 1,436 of these areas passed a resolution declaring the NPA as persona non grata in their respective localities.

A total of 2,701 retooled community support program orientations from 2020 to 2021 were undertaken along with the implementation of service caravans in communities stricken by decades of armed struggle.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Army discovered on Sunday an armed cache of the NPA in the outskirts of the towns of Saint Bernard and Hinunangan in Southern Leyte province.

With information from former NPA members who recently surrendered to government troops, soldiers recovered an AK47 rifle with two magazines, an M653 rifle, two .45 caliber pistols, 14 rounds of 5.56mm ball cartridge ammunition, and three M16 magazines in Kauswagan village, Saint Bernard town.

Alias Roc and alias Jhon disclosed that the AK47 was issued to alias Romnick, an active NPA fighter, while the M653 rifle belonged to alias Elen, a former rebel. The two informants are a couple who surrendered to authorities last January 13.

“These informants divulged that these rifles were buried due to lack of ammunition for safekeeping purposes as they evade the government forces,” Lt. Col. Ernesto dela Rosa, Jr., commander of the Army’s 14th Infantry Battalion, said.

Residents of Old Kauswagan village also turned over a Techblast tablet and three Samsung keypad mobile phones owned by alias Matus to the 14th Infantry Battalion. The electronic gadgets were buried in the backyard of former rebel-couriers who recently withdrew their support from the communist terrorist group.

In Calag-itan village in Hinunangan, Southern Leyte, soldiers also discovered an M16 rifle placed inside a plastic jug, two M16 magazines and two water containers. The said firearm was issued to alias Majay, an NPA fighter who has been involved in encounters with government forces.

Dela Rosa said the capture of firearms manifests the declining support of the masses to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)- NPA – National Democratic Front (NDF).

“The growing support of the people in the former CPP-NPA-NDF mass base areas would eventually led to the downfall of the remnants of the said terrorist group,” he added.

Col. Noel Vestuir, commander of the Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade lauded the former rebels, village officials in these communities, and residents for their active cooperation.

“I call on the remaining active members of the communist NPA terrorist to return to the folds of the law. We assure you of your safety. You will be treated humanely, and the government will help you start a peaceful life along with your families,” Vestuir added.

The CPP-NPA is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines.

The Anti-Terrorism Council also formally designated the NDF as a terrorist organization on June 23, 2021, citing it as “an integral and inseparable part” of the CPP-NPA that was created in April 1973. (PNA)