The concerted efforts of the Provincial Task Forces to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) in Zamboanga Peninsula and the 11 Clusters of Regional Task Force (RTF) ELCAC IX focused on responding to the needs of barangays affected by the Communist Terrorist Groups (CTGs). The reports from the PTF-ELCACs and Clusters were the highlights during the 5th RTF-ELCAC IX meeting on October 27, 2020 through video conference. “It is important that we concentrate our efforts as the Regional Task Force into ensuring that the communities know that the government is working for them and that we are a government that truly cares for all our constituents”, said the Secretary Rolando Joselito D. Bautista of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security for Region IX.

The PTF-ELCAC and the Department of the Interior and Local Government IX in collaboration with the Armed Forces of the Philippines conducted the needs assessment through the Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP) in the 86 barangays affected by the CTGs in Zamboanga Peninsula. Basic services like access roads, concrete bridges, potable water, power lines, irrigation system, pre-and post-agriculture facilities, housing, health centers, school buildings including internet connectivity, were identified during the RCSP. The PTF-ELCAC of Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay, the regional line agencies, private sector and the civil society organizations collaborated and provided these needed interventions.

Regional Director Pinky Grace P. Pareja of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) IX presented the issues of the Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples (ICC/IPs) in Zamboanga Peninsula. These issues were generated during the inter-agency visit in September 2020 of NCIP Chair Allen Capuyan in the region. On the tribal leaders’ conflict, Dir. Pareja expressed a “need to strengthen the IP Structures to finally resolve the division and foster unity among the IP Tribes.”

National Security Council Deputy Director General Damian L. Carlos, DSWD Undersecretary for Inclusive and Sustainable Peace and Head of the RTF-ELCAC IX Secretariat Rene Glen O Paje, RDC IX Chairperson Governor Victor J. Yu, and 68 members and guests of the RTF-ELCAC IX participated in the meeting.

Sec. Bautista capped the meeting saying that “there is no fast route in resolving the insurgency crisis with the CTGs to attain a just and lasting peace. However, through the RTF-ELCAC platform, we are able to harmonize and improve coordination inthe implementation of government programs and projects for an efficient delivery of service”. (Loreta E. Lapad, NEDA IX)