Negros Occidental renews commitment to end insurgency

Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson (right) meets with Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr., executive director of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, at the close of a two-day transformation program planning workshop organized by the Presidential Adviser on Peace Reconciliation and Unity at Nature’s Village Resort, Talisay City on Friday (June 23, 2023). (Photo courtesy of Negros Occidental-PIO)

BACOLOD City – The Negros Occidental provincial government renewed its commitment to end the decades-long communist insurgency during the two-day transformation program planning workshop for local peace stakeholders with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) in Talisay City.

Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, chairperson of the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC), said the workshop is “an important step in developing a thorough and successful plan that will serve as the roadmap for our efforts in the next months and years.”

“Foremost, we want to put an end to local communist armed conflict, which has caused distress and instability in our communities. This challenge necessitates multi-faceted approach that includes law enforcement, socio-economic development, and community empowerment,” Lacson said in his message at the close of the workshop on Friday at Nature’s Village Resort.

The activity was also attended by Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr., executive director of the National TF-ELCAC, and gathered members of the regional and provincial TF-ELCAC, representatives of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army and civil society organizations, and former rebels (FRs).

The OPAPRU has identified Negros Occidental as the pilot area for the implementation of the transformation program in Western Visayas.

“As the pilot province for the transformation program implementation, Negros Occidental will be crucial in demonstrating the program’s success. The efforts of the provincial government in the pursuit of peace and inclusive progress are evident in our programs, services and policies, and we will zealously continue to do such measures until such time our collective goals for progress and peace are achieved,” Lacson said.

In recent months, armed encounters between government troops and fighters of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in Negros Occidental have claimed the lives of rebels, injured soldiers, and displaced thousands of residents in affected areas, especially in Himamaylan City and Moises Padilla town.

Lacson himself has led the call for those still in the armed struggle to return to the fold of the law like many of their former comrades, who have already chosen the path of peace and availed of government programs.

According to the OPAPRU, the transformation program seeks to address the needs of FRs, their families, and communities to aid them in their transformation, as well as strengthen their resiliency against the recovery efforts of the CPP-NPA.

The transformation program is designed to complement the local peace engagement (LPE), which is among the 12 lines of effort under the NTF-ELCAC and is considered one of the most effective ways of dealing with the communist groups.

During the workshop, local bodies were oriented on mainstreaming LPE, conducted the initial formulation of the cluster agenda for Negros Occidental, and formulated the province’s action plan towards the transformation of the FRs, their families, and communities.

The LPE is anchored on Executive Order 70, which calls for the use of a whole-of-nation approach in addressing the challenges caused by the communist armed conflict, and has also led to the creation of the NTF-ELCAC. (PNA)