MANILA – The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) would continue to bring development to isolated and conflict-affected communities as it expressed support to the recent exploratory talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), an official said Wednesday.
"The NTF-ELCAC will sustain gains and further advance the delivery of basic services, access to livelihood opportunities and complete the infrastructure development projects in isolated, conflict affected communities," NTF-ELCAC co-vice chair Eduardo Año said in a statement.
Año, who is also National Security Adviser, said the exploratory talks agreed last Nov. 23 in Oslo, Norway should not be subject to any preconditions on ceasefire, release of political detainees, and lifting of terrorist designation.
He said the government will not relent in defending citizens from the threat of communist terrorist groups by maintaining peace and order.
"The Armed Forces of the Philippines and PNP will continue with its campaign to defeat all armed threats to the country, including the NPA (New People's Army) They will continue to sustain its operational tempo to further weaken the NPA’s capacity to sow violence in their last remaining influenced communities," he added.
Año said the task force will continue to prioritize the dismantling of the 20 remaining weakened guerilla fronts.
From 89 active guerilla fronts five years ago, the NTF-ELCAC whittled down the 55-year-old communist group to zero active guerilla fronts.
This was largely achieved through the principle of whole-of-government effort and whole-of -nation participation.
Año said this approach has become the beacon of a real and productive engagement which has led to unprecedented peace and security in previously conflict torn areas.
"We cannot and will not stop pursuing peace. We do not seek to stamp out our fellow Filipinos who have been duped into committing terrorist acts by false ideology, but rather aim to lift them up to work with them hand in hand as brothers and sisters in nation building," he said.
He also assured the public that the NTF-ELCAC will work to end the communist armed struggle, mindful that the rebels are still Filipinos entitled to amnesty.
Año added that, ultimately, the overarching goal is true reconciliation where former rebels successfully rejoin mainstream society and become productive citizens of the country.
Support from faithful urged
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) urged the faithful to support the measure.
"We call on all people of goodwill to continue working and praying for peace. Let us support this effort by the two parties and the third-party facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government. With the power of the Holy Spirit, let us declare: Resume the GRP-NDFP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines-National Democratic Front of the Philippines) Formal Peace Talks!" the group added.
The religious leaders also hoped that the negotiations will resume very soon to finally end the conflict.
"We reiterate our call for the two parties to resume the formal peace talks earnestly to address the roots of the armed conflict so that a final peace agreement may come to pass. We hope that various barriers to peace will be resolved through dialogue and principled negotiations," it added.
The PEPP is an umbrella organization composed of church groups, including Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), and Ecumenical Bishops' Forum (EBF). (with report from Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)