Antique forms task force that will end insurgency

(Photo Courtesy of PDEA – 6 Facebook)

By: Jennifer P. Rendon 

Antique has taken the lead in Panay Island in forming an interim force aimed at ending local insurgency in the area.

By virtue of Executive Order No. 119, Series of 2019, Governor Rhodora Cadiao moved for the creation of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in the Province of Antique.

Signed on Sept. 26, 2019, the order takes effect immediately.

Aside from EP 119, a joint resolution was also passed during the joint conduct of Antique Peace and Order Council (PPOC), Peace Development Council (PDC) and Provincial Anti Drug Abuse Council (PADAC) meeting held at Sumakwel Hall Provincial Capitol Building in San Jose De Buenavista town.

The task force will be composed of the governor; the vice governor; and representatives from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Philippine Army, and the Office of the Peace and Order and Public Safety (POPS).

The EO further reads, “the Committee is empowered to call upon any official, employee, agency or instrumentality of the Local Government, the DILG, PNP, PA, and POPS for any assistance that may be necessary to carry out the purpose and all acts relevant to its functions under this Executive Order.”

The PTF-ELCAC is tasked to ensure inter-agency convergence in the implementation of the Whole of Nation Approach framework in the conflict-affected and vulnerable areas.

This task force, which shall be composed of 12 clusters of efforts, will also be replicated in the municipal and barangay levels.

It was done in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 or “Institutionalizing the Whole-Of-Nation Approach in Attaining Inclusive and Sustainable Peace, Creating A National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and Directing the Adoption of A National Peace Framework,” which was issued on Dec. 4, 2018.

In passing EO 119, Cadiao underscored “a need for mechanism for local peace engagement or negotiations and interventions that is consistent with constitutional integrity and national sovereignty, response to local needs, and sensitive to realities on the ground.”

In 2015, Antique province was declared Peaceful and Ready for Development because of the significant decline in the number of rebels operating in the area.

Lieutenant Colonel Benedict Batara, Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion commander, said that members of the New People’s Army (NPA) Southern Front are now trying to do recovery efforts in some parts of the province by doing massive recruitment and extortion.

Currently, there are only about 50-60 armed combatants operating in the southern part of Iloilo and Antique.

He said that one of their priorities would be to respond to the needs of vulnerable areas in Antique, particularly the towns of San Refugio, Sibalom, Hamtic, Culasi, and Valderama.

Batara said the task force is a big step in the government’s anti-emergency efforts “since we have identified the gaps, we need the convergence of others stakeholders in responding to these concerns, more than just the military approach.

He added that the Antique TF-ELCAC is an effort not only of the members of the council but thru the initiative of Antique people who have been longing for genuine peace, security and development.

“We attributed the successful creation of the PTF-ELCAC to the sterling leadership of LCEs, support of LGUs, security sector, stakeholders and the people of Antique who motivated the council to pass and approve the EO and resolution creating the anti-insurgency task force,” Batara said.