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Duterte creates task force to end armed conflict with communist rebels

President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the creation of national task force aimed at ending the "local armed communist conflict" in the country, a document released by Malacañang on Monday showed.

Signed on December 4, Executive Order 70 also institutionalizes the whole-of-nation approach in attaining "inclusive and sustainable peace" and directs the adoption of a national peace framework.

The task force shall be headed by the President with the National Security Adviser as vice chairperson.

Its members include secretaries of departments of interior and local government; justice; national defense; public works and highways; budget and management; finance; agrarian reform; social welfare and development; education; and communications.

Also part of the body are director general of the National Economic and Development Authority; director general of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency; director general general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority; Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process; Presidential Adviser for Indigenous People's Concerns; chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; director general of the Philippine National Police; chairperson of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples; and two representatives from the private sector.

"There is a need to create a national task force that will provide an efficient mechanism and structure for the implementation of the whole-of-nation approach to aid in the realization of the collective aspiration of the Filipino people to attain inclusive and sustainable peace,” the EO stated.

The EO provides that the whole-of-nation approach aims to address the root causes of insurgencies, disturbances and tensions such as poverty, historical injustice, social inequality and lack of inclusivity.

"Towards this end, the government shall prioritize and harmonize the delivery of basic services and social development packages in conflict-affected areas and -vulnerable communities, facilitate societal inclusivity, and ensure active participation of all sectors of society in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda," it said.

The task force is mandated to formulate and implement within six months from the issuance of the EO the whole-of-nation approach-driven national peace framework.

It shall also evaluate, define, modify or integrate policies, programs and activities contained in the framework as well as develop strategic communication, advocacy and peace constituency plans in case of ceasefire.

Peace negotiations between the government and communist rebels bogged down in November last year after Duterte lamented the continued attacks by the rebels on troops and civilians.

The talks were supposed to resume in June in Norway but Duterte called it off to give way to public consultations and review of existing agreements.

Last week, the President said he was "no longer ready" to talk to the communists. He also warned exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison that he will slap him should he return to the Philippines. —LDF, GMA News