MANILA – National Security Adviser (NSA) Eduardo Año on Wednesday night announced that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has ordered the recalibration of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), with Vice President Sara Duterte being designated as the body's co-vice chair.

Año, in a statement, said that he made the motion which was unanimously approved for the designation of Duterte, also concurrent Secretary of the Department of Education, during the Executive Committee (ExeCom) meeting with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin in Malacañang.

Año said the ExeCom welcomed Duterte’s designation as one of the NTF-ELCAC's ranking officials. He and Duterte now serve as co-vice chairpersons of the agency led by the President.

"Her unstinting commitment to the cause of NTF-ELCAC will undoubtedly be very valuable to the Task Force and we thank her for accepting the challenge," Año said.

The NSA also revealed the task force has infused into its strategic objective the President's call for peace and unity and economic development as core principles to finally end the violent 54-year-old Maoist-inspired armed conflict being waged by the terrorist group New People's Army (NPA).

"What is most significant from today's meeting is the fact that we are shifting from the old to the new NTF-ELCAC with the primary role of us being 'bringers of peace.' This is what the president desires for our people. That each and every Filipino can live a life of genuine and enduring peace. For where there is peace and unity, economic development comes behind," Año stressed.

He also said the President’s marching orders to the NTF ELCAC is clear: Sustain the whole-of-nation approach to peace and development to prevent communist terrorists, their front organizations and other lawless elements from recruiting, regrouping and regaining power.

Marcos also directed the task force and local government units to continue working together to seize the gains in the regions and ensure that the task force carry this momentum toward total victory over communist terrorism under his administration.

"We wish to reiterate that the administration is firmly committed to the whole of nation approach to finally ending communist terrorism in the country. The President, in fact, has directed the task force to intensify its efforts since we have already attained strategic victory over the CPP-NPA-NDF," Año said.

He assured the government that NTF ELCAC will relentlessly deliver on its commitment to unity, peace and development anchored on the principles of good and inclusive governance.

"With the support of all instrumentalities of government and the entire nation, we shall be enablers of positive change in the lives of our people as we remain steadfast in our commitment to end the long standing communist armed conflict and terrorism by addressing its root causes and pursuing its last remaining armed and violent components. Nonetheless, we shall continue to reach out and offer them peace through our highly effective local peace engagements," Año stressed.

Since its inception in 2018 through Executive Order 70, data by the NTF-ELCAC showed that 75 percent of all NPA guerrilla fronts have been dismantled.

Only 22 out of the original 89 fronts are still existing. Of the 22 left, 20 are weakened and the remaining 2 are the subject of focused military operations and development efforts by NTF ELCAC agencies.

Earlier this week, government forces arrested ranking NPA leader Dindo Monsanto in Malabon City.

"He is a high-ranking commander of the NPA and member of the Central Committee of the CPP and was instrumental in the gruesome killing of football player Kieth Absalon and his cousin, Nolven, in Masbate nearly two years ago," Año said.

Año also said the ExeCom tackled the following during the meeting:

-- ensuring funding support for the Barangay Development Program by all concerned agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Education and others;

-- the reactivation of the Cabinet Officers for Regional Development and Security or CORDS

-- activation of a Project Management Office in every agency that will institutionalize the implementation of NTF-ELCAC programs and projects.

"We are on the cusps of victory and we give credit to those who came before us for making this possible. To them, all of us in this strong alliance will forever be grateful," Año said. (PNA)