ZONE OF PEACE. Selected members of the Western Visayas Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF6 ELCAC) sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the creation of "zones of peace" in schools to protect children from all forms of conflict on Monday (Sept. 5, 2022) in Iloilo City. Part of the agreement is for the concerned agency-signatory to come up with a four-part module to educate students about the lies and deceptions used by the communist terrorists to recruit students. (PNA photo screen grab from NTF ELCAC live streaming)

ILOILO CITY – Selected members of the Western Visayas Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF6 ELCAC) signed on Monday a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the creation of "zones of peace" in schools to protect children from all forms of conflict.

“We intend to protect our schools and our children from any and all forms of conflict, including any and all forms of exploitation. We are coming together for one simple reason: We want to protect our children, nothing more, nothing less,” said Associate Provincial Prosecutor Flosemer Chris Gonzales in his message during the signing rites held at the Police Regional Office (PRO) 6 (Western Visayas) headquarters here.

The signatories to the MOA were regional heads of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Education (DepEd), National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) of the Philippine Army, Police Regional Office (PRO) 6, Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Philippine Science High School Western Visayas Campus (PSHSWVC) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Gonzales said they will also be opening doors and opportunities for other civil society and volunteer organizations to bring the much-needed help and assistance to students and youths.

In the agreement, the concerned agencies agreed to “reiterate and reinforce the declaration of all schools in Western Visayas as zones of peace”.

It will also establish a Child Protection Committee in all schools to guarantee that the place of learning remains a venue where children receive utmost security and peace.

Further, the task force shall come up with a four-part module to educate students about lies and deceptions used by the communist terrorists to recruit students. A technical working group shall be created to craft the module.

“Said modules will be integrated in their National Service Training Program and shall also be imparted to all students in grade school,” the MOA stated.

DepEd assistant regional director Pedro Escobarte, in his message on behalf of regional director Ramir Uytico, said that since 2005, they already have programs supporting the protection of their children and personnel from forms of conflict.

“We have declarations of schools as zones of peace. We have a big stake in this because our learners and our schools are recipients of this undertaking,” he said.

Major General Benedict Arevalo, commander of the 3rd Infantry Battalion, said that the agreement signing is historical and fitting to put emphasis on the security and protection of children.

“It is not only protecting our children it is protecting our future. With the zone of peace that we have this afternoon, this will further strengthen our preservation and security of our future,” he said.

He also voiced his expectation for the initiative to be expanded to other sectors and not just on education.

NICA regional director Priscilla Escobin hoped the initiative will be replicated in other regions “to ensure the protection of our children against deceptive and exploitive elements”.

DILG regional director Juan Jovian Ingeniero, who also sits as chairperson of the RTF6 ELCAC Technical Working Group, hoped that the agreement will serve as a “breakthrough towards peace and development” in the region.

Other signatories also expressed their support for the objective of the agreement. (PNA)